Lost City Dug Up in Ethiopia Part of Mysterious Empire
By Staff, Agencies
Archaeologists have discovered a village in northern Ethiopia that once belonged to a thriving empire that rivalled the Romans.
Researchers have dug up a grid of stone walls and the remains of stone buildings in Beta Samati, a town that is believed to have existed from 771 BC to AD 645 and was inhabited throughout the rise of the Aksum civilization.
Michael Harrower, lead author of the study and Associate Professor of Archaeology at Johns Hopkins University, stated in a press release:
“The excavations of Beta Samati help fill important gaps in our understanding of ancient Pre-Aksumite and Aksumite civilizations.”
The report, entitled “Beta Samati: discovery and excavation of an Aksumite town”, has been published for the first time in Antiquity.
The Aksumite civilization, despite its prominent place in the ancient world, remains a mystery to archaeologists today. This partly explains why the discovery of the town of Beta Samati is so important, as finds dating to the Kingdom of Aksum are surfacing in the Yeha region of northern Ethiopia.
Harrower revealed that the town itself was found in 2009 but was not excavated before, and local residents played an important role in the current discoveries:
“Local village elders have long recognized Beta Samati as an important historical place but many of the specific details of the site's history seem to have been lost over time, and that's where archaeology can help clarify the area's history.”
According to Harrower, it was the locals who actually tipped them off to researching the site further, as the name that the Tigrinya people had given to it, Beta Samati – “house of audience” in the local language, suggested it was a place of local administration where political authorities were situated, perhaps in association with the basilica.
Researchers have found that Beta Samati was first occupied by the Pre-Aksumites around 750 BC. From there it was a regional center as the Aksumites took hold, and remained important after they converted to Christianity.
The place was eventually abandoned, hundreds of years later, in around 650 AD.
In a tremendous breakthrough for the scientists, signs of all of these stages can be traced in the discoveries, ranging from commercial buildings and homes, to even one of the oldest Aksumite Christian basilicas, dated to the 4th century AD.
The team discovered evidence of glass and metal production as well as signs of food processing and consumption in a complex of rectangular stone buildings.
The research at Beta Samati is part of the Southern Red Sea Archaeological Histories [SRSAH] project launched in 2009. Prior to it, experts believed the Yeha region had lost significance when Aksum [Axum] was made the Aksumite kingdom’s capital city.
The finds dug up at Beta Samati seem to challenge this idea, as Dr. Ioana A. Dumitru, from Johns Hopkins and a co-writer of the paper told the press:
“Beta Samati is a very densely populated ancient settlement with both residential and religious structures” and it “reveals important details about daily life in ancient Ethiopia” through its buildings and artefacts.
Scientists have found fascinating indications of cross-cultural interaction in some of the artefacts unearthed at the site.