Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Beta Samati: discovery and excavation of an Aksumite town

  • Michael J. Harrower (a1), Ioana A. Dumitru (a1), Cinzia Perlingieri (a2), Smiti Nathan (a3), Kifle Zerue (a4), Jessica L. Lamont (a5), Alessandro Bausi (a6), Jennifer L. Swerida (a7), Jacob L. Bongers (a8), Helina S. Woldekiros (a9), Laurel A. Poolman (a1), Christie M. Pohl (a10), Steven A. Brandt (a11) and Elizabeth A. Peterson (a12)...
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

Abstract

The Empire of Aksum was one of Africa's most influential ancient civilisations. Traditionally, most archaeological fieldwork has focused on the capital city of Aksum, but recent research at the site of Beta Samati has investigated a contemporaneous trade and religious centre located between Aksum and the Red Sea. The authors outline the discovery of the site and present important finds from the initial excavations, including an early basilica, inscriptions and a gold intaglio ring. From daily life and ritual praxis to international trade, this work illuminates the role of Beta Samati as an administrative centre and its significance within the wider Aksumite world.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Beta Samati: discovery and excavation of an Aksumite town
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Beta Samati: discovery and excavation of an Aksumite town
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Beta Samati: discovery and excavation of an Aksumite town
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence (Email: mharrower@jhu.edu)

References

Hide All
Anfray, F. 1973. Nouveaux sites antiques. Journal of Ethiopian Studies 11: 1327.
Anfray, F. 1990. Les anciens Ethiopiens: siecles d'historie. Paris: Armand Colin.
Anfray, F. 2012a. Le site de Dongour, Axoum, Ethiopie: recherches archéologiques. Hamburg: Books on Demand.
Anfray, F. 2012b. Matara: the archaeological investigation of a city of ancient Eritrea. Palethnologie 4: 1148.
Anfray, F. & Annequin, G.. 1965. Deuxième, troisème et quatrième campagnes de fouilles. Annales d'Ethiopie 6: 4986. https://doi.org/10.3406/ethio.1965.1135
Bard, K.A., Fattovich, R., Manzo, A. & Perlingieri, C.. 2014. The chronology of Aksum (Tigrai, Ethiopia): a view from Bieta Giyorgis. Azania 49: 285316. https://doi.org/10.1080/0067270X.2014.943484
Bausi, A. 2017. History of Aksum, in Uhlig, S., Appleyard, D., Bausi, A., Hahn, W. & Kaplan, S. (ed.) Ethiopia: history, culture and challenges: 98102. East Lansing: Michigan State University.
Breton, J.-F. 2015. Les bâtisseurs des deux rives de la mer Rouge. Paris: Éditions de Boccard. https://doi.org/10.4000/books.cfee.792
Bronk Ramsey, C. 2009. Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon 51: 337–60. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033822200033865
Cain, C.R. 2000. Animals at Axum: zooarchaeological research in the later prehistory of the northern Ethiopian Highlands. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Washington University, St Louis.
Chaix, L. 2013. Fauna from the UNO/BU Excavations at Bieta Giyorgis (Aksum) in Tigray, northern Ethiopia. Journal of African Archaeology 11: 211–41. https://doi.org/10.3213/2191-5784-10244
Curtis, M. 2009. Relating the ancient Ona Culture to the wider northern Horn: discerning patterns and problems in the archaeology of the first millennium BC. African Archaeological Review 26: 327–50. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10437-009-9062-4
Curtis, M. & Schmidt, P.R.. 2008. Landscape, people, and places on the ancient Asmara plateau, in Schmidt, P., Curtis, M. & Teka, Z. (ed.) Archaeology of ancient Eritrea: 65108. Trenton (NJ): Red Sea.
D'Andrea, A.C. 2008. T'ef (Eragrostis tef) in ancient agricultural systems of Highland Ethiopia. Economic Botany 62: 547–66. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12231-008-9053-4
D'Andrea, A.C., Manzo, A., Harrower, M. & Hawkins, A.. 2008a. Pre-Aksumite and Aksumite settlement of north-eastern Tigrai, Ethiopia. Journal of Field Archaeology 33: 151–76. https://doi.org/10.1179/009346908791071268
D'Andrea, A.C., Schmidt, P.R. & Curtis, M.C.. 2008b. Paleobotanical analysis and agricultural economy in early first millennium BCE sites around Asmara, in Schmidt, P., Curtis, M. & Teka, Z. (ed.) Archaeology of ancient Eritrea: 207–16. Trenton (NJ): Red Sea.
Di Salvo, M. 2017. Basilicas of Ethiopia: architectural history. London: I.B. Taurus.10.5040/9781350988477
Fattovich, R. 1980. Materiali per lo studio della ceramica pre-aksumita etiopica. Napoli: Universitario Orientale di Napoli.
Fattovich, R. 2009. Reconsidering Yeha, c. 800–400 BC. African Archaeological Review 26: 275–90. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10437-009-9063-3
Fattovich, R. 2010. The development of ancient states in the northern Horn of Africa, c. 3000 BC–AD 1000: an archaeological outline. Journal of World Prehistory 23: 145–75. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10963-010-9035-1
Fattovich, R. 2018. From community to state: the development of the Aksumite polity (northern Ethiopia and Eritrea). Journal of Archaeological Research 27: 249–85. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10814-018-9122-x
Finneran, N.J. 2007. Archaeology of Ethiopia. London: Routledge.
Gerlach, I. 2012. Yeha: an Ethio-Sabaean site in the Highlands of Tigray (Ethiopia), in Sedov, A. (ed.) New research in archaeology and epigraphy of South Arabia and its neighbors: 215–40. Moscow: Ministry of Culture.
Hagos, T. 2011. Archaeological excavations at the church of Arbaetu Ensesa, Ethiopia. Annales d'Ethiopie 26: 7998. https://doi.org/10.3406/ethio.2011.1432
Hahn, W. 2010. Sequence and chronology of Late Aksumite coin types. Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society 205: 510.
Harrower, M.J., Nathan, S., Mazzariello, J.C., Zerue, K., Dumitru, I.A., Meresa, Y., Bongers, J., Gebreegziabher, G., Zaitchik, B.F. & Anderson, M.C.. In press. Water availability and the empire of Aksum: the Southern Red Sea Archaeological Histories (SRSAH) project survey (2009–2016). African Archaeological Review.
Hatke, G. 2012. Holy land and sacred history: view from early Ethiopia, in Pohl, W., Gantner, C. & Payne, R. (ed.) Visions of community in the post-Roman world: the West, Byzantium and the Islamic world, 300–1100: 259–75. London: Routledge.
Hatke, G. 2013. Aksum and Nubia. New York: New York University Press.
Heldman, M. 2003. Churches, in Uhlig, S. (ed.) Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, volume 1: 737–40. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Kaplan, S. 2008. Finding the true cross: the social-political dimensions of the Ethiopian Mäsqäl festival. Journal of Religion in Africa 38: 447–65. https://doi.org/10.1163/157006608X375057
Krencker, D. 1913. Deutsche Aksum-Expedition, Band II. Berlin: Georg Reimer.
Lyons, D. 2007. Integrating African cuisines: rural cuisine and identity in Tigray, Highland Ethiopia. Journal of Social Archaeology 7: 346–71. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469605307081393
Manzo, A. 2003. Note sulla più’ antica fase archeologica Aksumita. Rassegna di Studi Etiopici 2: 3750.
Manzo, A. 2005. Aksumite trade and the Red Sea exchange network: a view from Bieta Giyorgis (Aksum), in Starkey, J.C.M. (ed.) People of the Red Sea: 5166. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Manzo, A. 2009. Capra nubiana in Berbere sauce? Pre-Aksumite art and identity building. African Archaeological Review 26: 291303. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10437-009-9066-0
Michels, J.W. 2005. Changing settlement patterns in the Aksum-Yeha region of Ethiopia: 700 BC–AD 850. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Munro-Hay, S. 1995. A new gold coin of King MHDYS of Aksum. Numismatic Chronicle 155: 275–77.
Munro-Hay, S. & Juel-Jensen, B.. 1995. Aksumite coinage. London: Spink.
Peirano, D. 2018. Internal arrangements in some early Christian basilicas of the Eastern Mediterranean. Hortus Artium Mediaevalium 24: 162–70. https://doi.org/10.1484/J.HAM.5.115945
Phillipson, D.W. 2000. Archaeology at Aksum, Ethiopia, 1993–7. London: Society of Antiquaries.
Phillipson, D.W. 2012. Foundations of an African civilization: Aksum and the northern Horn 1000 BC–AD 1300. Woodbridge: James Currey.
Phillipson, L. 2009. Using stone tools: evidence from Aksum, Ethiopia. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Raith, M.M., Hoffbauer, R., Euler, H., Yule, P.A. & Damgaard, K.. 2013. The view from Zafar: an archaeometric study of the Aqaba pottery complex and its distribution in the 1st millennium CE. Zeitschrift für Orient-Archäologie 6: 320–50.
Reimer, P.J. et al. 2013. IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0–50 000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55: 1869–87. https://doi.org/10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.16947
Ricci, L. & Fattovich, R.. 1987. Scavi Archeologici nella Zona di Aksum. B. Bieta Giyoorgis. Rassegna di Studi Etiopici 31(2): 123–97.
Robin, C. & de Maigret, A.. 1998. Le Grand Temple de Yéha (Tigray, Éthiopie), après la première campagne de fouilles de la mission Française. Comptes-rendus des seances de l'Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 142: 737–98. https://doi.org/10.3406/crai.1998.15906
Schmidt, P.R. & Naty, A.. 2008. Bulls’ heads and enigmas: strong inference and interpretive puzzles in Eritrea, in Schmidt, P.R., Curtis, M.C. & Teka, Z.. Archaeology of ancient Eritrea: 235–46. Trenton (NJ): Red Sea.
Schmidt, P.R., Curtis, M.C. & Teka, Z.. 2008. Archaeology of ancient Eritrea. Trenton (NJ): Red Sea.
van Donzel, E. & Schoeler, G.. 2007. Hiğra, in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, volume 3: He-N. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Walthew, C.V. 2002. A metrological study of the Early Roman basilicas. Lewiston (NY): Edwin Mellen.
Zazzaro, C. 2013. The ancient Red Sea port of Adulis. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Keywords

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Beta Samati: discovery and excavation of an Aksumite town

  • Michael J. Harrower (a1), Ioana A. Dumitru (a1), Cinzia Perlingieri (a2), Smiti Nathan (a3), Kifle Zerue (a4), Jessica L. Lamont (a5), Alessandro Bausi (a6), Jennifer L. Swerida (a7), Jacob L. Bongers (a8), Helina S. Woldekiros (a9), Laurel A. Poolman (a1), Christie M. Pohl (a10), Steven A. Brandt (a11) and Elizabeth A. Peterson (a12)...
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.

A correction has been issued for this article: