May 11, 2021

A new city of the Aksum Empire comes to light

A 25-meter hill in northern Ethiopia has revealed itself as an economic and political enclave city of the Empire, called Beta Samati.

The empire of Aksum, in northwestern Africa, was one of the most influential civilizations of the Ancient world, but not one of the best known. They expanded from much of northern Ethiopia, most Eritrea, the mountains of the current region of Tigray, certain regions of Sudan and part of the western coast of the Arabian peninsula.

Although archaeologists have been working throughout the area for years to learn more about the empire itself, it has been now when luck has been on their side making them find not an isolated object or house but a city integer whose name is Beta Samati

The city was already inhabited since 750 BC, and was for more than a thousand years a powerful regional center until it was abandoned around 650 BC.

In the works that are being carried out in it, private houses, commercial buildings and something that has drawn a lot of attention to researchers have been found, the first Aksumitas basilicas (of Christian worship). Around this building several artifacts have been found that would suggest that its work would go beyond the religious. The curious thing is that they have Roman and pagan influences “that illustrate the cultural diversity of this enigmatic civilization” according to Michael Harrower, professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of the study.

The city now found belongs to the aksumita civilization, between 80 a. C. and 825 of our era

The research work carried out by archaeologists has confirmed that the city dates from the period of the Aksumite civilization between 80 BC and 825 BC, being a meeting point between the Roman empire and the Indian subcontinent. “The Aksum Empire was one of the most influential ancient civilizations in the world, but it is still one of the least known,” says Harrower. “The works in Beta Samati help to reach important gaps in our understanding of the ancient preaksumite and aksumitas civilizations,” he adds.

Until recently it was thought that this area had been abandoned when Aksum became capital. But with this discovery what is made clear is that it was not so, since Beta Samati remained a key center of commerce.

“The city is an old settlement very densely populated with residential and religious structures,” says Ioana A. Dumitru of Johns Hopkins University. “An important administrative center located on the commercial route that connected the capital of Aksum with the Red Sea and beyond,” says Harrower.

In the excavations they found a building complex of rectangular stone, at the top of the hill, which appear to have been used for commercial as well as domestic activities.

On the other hand, at the base, they found remains of a basilica of the fourth century after Christ and that seems to be one of the first built in the kingdom of Aksum rising shortly after King Ezana converted the empire to Christianity in the middle of the century IV after Christ.

“Beta Samati not only sheds light on the Aksumite civilization, but also has implications for our understanding of political and religious change among ancient civilizations more broadly,” says Harrower. “In addition to changing our understanding of the Aksum Empire, the site also reveals important details about everyday life in ancient Ethiopia,” says Dimitru.


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