Ethiopia Archaeology

Prehistory. – In the lower valley of the Omo River, about 30 km N of Lake Rodolfo, an international paleontological mission (initially French-English, from Kenia-US; immediately afterwards, only French-US) has identified deposits that can be traced back more than 2 million years ago and showing the presence of hominids producing lithic artifacts; the work, begun in 1967, gave its greatest results in 1973. An Olduvayan type site, with large masses of artefacts and animal residues, probably remains of the consumption of meat by the hominids who inhabited the place for a long time, giving it clearly an artificial organization in its topography (also creating a covered shelter?) is Malkà Qunṭurrè, about 50 km SW of Addìs Abebà, near the banks of the Awàš river, where the works, started in 1965, they still proceed, by a French mission. In the Ethiopian province of Wallò, NE of Addìs Abebà, a Franco-American mission in 1974 discovered human remains probably dating back to more than 3 million years ago; they are the oldest human fossil vestiges discovered so far. In the same region, not far from the urban center of Däsiè, the discovery, in the same period, of other fossil remains dating back to 3 or 5 million years ago would testify to the existence of man five million years ago, which is entirely new to human paleontological science. Even rock art (paintings, engravings, bas-reliefs) has been enriched with numerous other discoveries, especially in Eritrea and then also in the Harar-Dirrè Dawà region. Of particular importance is the discovery, in 1965, in the Sidamo region (E. southern), of a series of rock reliefs, made by circumscribing and lowering the surface bottom, which represent cows isolated or arranged in successive series, some of which superimposed as a register. The technique and style, safe and accurate, are new to Ethiopia, as is the product, even if some typological intertwining could be found in animal figurations of rock paintings also found in Ethiopia.

According to topschoolsintheusa, other discoveries of rock carvings, together with settlements and artifacts, occurred in central Danakil in 1968. Since 1969, a French mission has initiated the systematic study of the “dolmen” type monuments (or dolmenic cysts) existing in the Harv̄r region., of uncertain attribution and definition. Alongside the “dolmens”, the same mission has brought its attention to characteristic mounds, having different types of internal structure (monuments with circular chambers, etc.). The French archaeological mission at the Ethiopian institute of archeology has meanwhile resumed, in 1974, the identification and cataloging on site of the steles carved in the Soddò and Guragè region, another example of singular monuments whose age and historical attribution still remain a mystery.

History: pre-Christian and ancient Christian antiquities. – The research and excavation work carried out in Ethiopia in the north, almost exclusively in the Tigris. Furthermore, archaeological surveys conducted mainly by the French mission at the Ethiopian institute of archeology, have brought to light unsuspected ancient remains on much of the Ethiopia northern and also central-eastern. Random finds, but more often systematic searches and excavations, have yielded large material of architectural remains and sculptures from the South Arabian period, as shown by the inscriptions. The stone statuary is of particular importance: two statues, of seated people, of different shapes and styles, were found, one in the area of ​​Sen‛afè (Eritrea) and the other in that of Haultì, immediately SE of Aksùm, where it was found, near the statue,

These sculptures appear of particular importance as they show completely original types and techniques compared to the similar South Arabian monuments of Arabia. Furthermore, the findings of Haultì, together with others (statuettes of cattle, altars, etc.) from the nearby center of Melazò, confirm that Aksùm lay in an area of ​​safe and significant South Arabian settlement. Other findings also prove it a few km SW of Aksùm, in Seglamièn, from which come a dedicatory inscription on stone in ‘ancient’ South Arabian characters, found in 1973, and what is probably a South Arabian bronze seal, found in excavations in 1974. Not far from Aksum is Yehà, where since 1960 the aforementioned French mission has conducted excavations, bringing to light a quantity of various material,

Of the Aksum of the post-Arabian period (of a South Arabian Aksum there is so far no archaeological evidence, but South Arabian centers existed all around, up to the gates of the later city) the excavations at the present center, and especially inside it, have revealed a surprising series of underground monuments, which confirm the grandeur of the architectural ensemble of the ancient city. In this respect, exceptional results have crowned the excavations which, since 1973, a mission of the British Institute in Eastern Africa in Nairobi (Kenya) has been carrying out in the center (in particular in the area of ​​the large stelae) and on the outskirts of Aksum, bringing to light a very copious archaeological collection (ceramics, glass, metals, etc.): monuments and remains that we tend to place in the Christian and late Christian era, but whose chronological classification will be done later. Outside Aksum, on its immediate outskirts, the French archaeological mission had already unearthed a complex construction (castle?) In 1966-1968 and, through surveys in the soil, had been able to ascertain that the ancient city extended towards the W, beyond of today’s settlement. Another site of considerable importance was revealed during a survey, that of Henzat, a few km S of ‛Adwà (Adua) and not many E of Aksùm, where a quantity of worked steles (one even with a long inscription in Ethiopian characters not vocalized), proves the existence of an important settlement at least from the ancient post-Arabian period. Also in Aksum, then, very recent excavations in 1974 have brought to light a building complex in its entirety, located to the W-NW of the current city and on the hill overlooking it, almost certainly the remains – the only ones preserved so far – of one or two Christian churches, of the basilical type (?), of ancient Ethiopian architecture, with the use of large blocks of worked stone. A little further NW of this complex a field of steles was found, some of considerable and worked measures, others more rough, and still erected in some cases, under which a rich mass of thin-walled ceramic was found, of the type ‘ancient’, and clay figurines. Next to the stele field, a little further to the South, typical notches for the detachment of the stelae from the stone were observed on a boulder (another similar find had already been found a little more to the East than this), with words in Ethiopian characters engraved next to it. unvoiced ancient.

Belonging to the same post-Arabian Ethiopian civilization appears the varied and large set of residual buildings brought to light, in successive campaigns starting from 1959, by the French mission in Matarà (Eritrea), together with a very rich and significant set of artefacts, including large amount of ceramic. The set of ceramics that came out of the various sites allowed to start a first classification of types and characteristics in relation to the various archaeological layers of origin, in the hope of reaching a qualitative chronological arrangement, suitable to serve as an aid for the relative dating. of the monuments. In Eritrea, where the swath of South Arabian and non-South Arabian archaeological remains from Sen‛afè to the sea still awaits a systematic investigation, for the moment not feasible (only in Adulis the French mission conducted initial excavations), worthy of note is the presence, revealed on several occasions, of a number of sites with abundant lithic and clay material on the surface, prehistoric and perhaps historical at the same time; many of these sites are located in the area of ​​the city of Asmarà. None have been regularly excavated or subjected, at least, to systematic testing. Among the most recently discovered material, a series of small more or less schematic bucranos, worked in stone, even variegated, with desired chromatic effects, which constitute a new product in the sector of archaeological artefacts that have come to light up to now and which make suppose the existence of one or more craft workshops serving a widespread use of such objects.

Finally, it is worth mentioning the discovery in the Scioa, on the plateau E of Addìs Abebà, of the remains of buildings carried out with considerable technical skill and with stone material worked and decorated in bas-relief, representing stylized floral and geometric motifs.

Ethiopia Archaeology

About the author