The Texas Foundation for Archaeological & Historical Research
The TFAHR Bylazora Project
|INTRODUCTION TO THE TFAHR BYLAZORA PROJECT
By Eulah Matthews and William Neidinger
The city of Bylazora received scant mention in ancient sources; it is mentioned by Polybius and
Livy, but neither described it in detail nor precisely located it. Most modern archaeologists and
historians had long associated Bylazora with (Titov) Veles, a large city in the center of the
Republic of Macedonia. The association was made on a rather superficial similarity between the
names. And although an ancient site has been discovered at Veles, it appears far too small (3.5
hectares) to be Bylazora.
In 1976 Dr. Ivan Mikulčić suggested investigating a site in the Ovce Pole (Sheep Plain) near the
town of Sveti Nikole. Four kilometers from Sveti Nikole is the village of Knezje, dominated by a
plateau of close to 20 hectares commanding the surrounding plains and roads. The lay of the
land and a collection of artifacts suggested that this site might be the fabled Bylazora.
Exploratory soundings in the 1980s uncovered further architectural and ceramic evidence that
seemed to confirm Mikulčić ’s suggestion. In 1994 road crews, looking for road base material
near Knezje, accidentally uncovered the remains of a large, well-built, (apparently) subterranean
structure, which has been at times called a tomb, a reservoir, a ritual bath, or a fortified cistern.
|Sveti Nikole, seen from Bylazora.
|The village of Knezje, from Bylazora.
|Sheep grazing in the “Ovce Pole.”
|Road base material excavated from
the side of the hill of Bylazora.
|The subterranean structure
discovered at the base of the hill of
In 2008 TFAHR was invited by the People’s Museum of Sveti Nikole to cooperate on a systematic
excavation of this site, which many are now convinced is the Bylazora of the Paionians. That year
we divided the site into six sectors, based on the previous trial soundings and the lay of the land.
In 2008 we worked intermittently in all six sectors; Sector 3, on the acropolis, proved the most
promising, so we concentrated all our efforts there in 2009.
In July of 2009 there was a public presentation at the site of Bylazora of our finding to the
Macedonian press corps. Dr. Mikulčić was present and seemed satisfied that the results of two
years of work confirmed his hypothesis that this site was, indeed, the legendary Bylazora.
|Topographical map of Bylazora.
The numbered red areas are
the sectors we investigated.
|Dr. Ivan Mikulčić (left) visiting
the site of Bylazora.
|Sveti Nikole seen at dawn from
|Knezje village beyond the
wildflowers on Bylazora.
|Click on photo to enlarge.