ANCIENT ETHIOPIA (500 B.C-1150 A.D)

 

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The town of Yeha, not far from the famous city of Axum, is home to one of the oldest historical attractions in the world. Evidence suggests that the town was home to the first civilization in Ethiopia as it hosts a temple dating to 500 b.c or more. The area is believed to have been home of what Ethiopia claims to be the reigning place of queen of Sheba. Archeological evidences show that the standing building in Yeha was a temple, suggesting that Ethiopia adopted the old testament long before the birth of Christ. The claims that the town was ruled by the Queen of Sheba and decendants is evidenced by relics and historical items still found in the deserted part of the town, on which scriptures in Sabean language are evident.( more on Yeha town)

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AXUM/AKSUM

While there is little information with regards to the civilization that ruled Yeha ( except its mere existence) there is a lot written concerning the Axumite civilization. Many historians believe that Axum, a city not far from the mysterious town of Yeha, is probably a continuation of the dynasty which ruled Yeha.

With regards to the emergence of the Axumite dynasty varying dates are often mentionned. Basing calculations on existing archeological evidences provide more reliable information.

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These obelisks made of granite stones are still standing evidences of the Axumite empire might and power. They are grave markers of Axumite rulers and kings. Underneath the obelisks are tombs where the deceased personalities used to be buried with their belongings and wealth. Some of these tombs have been looted by treasure hunters in the near past, while most still remain unexplored.

The oldest of these obelisks is archeologically known to have been erected to on the 1st century AD. It can therefore be concluded that the Axumite empire have been established before the end of the 1st century.

The Axumite dynasty was known to have specialized in trade and was one of the most powerful in the world. Ivory is believed to be among the items that the axumites used to trade with a market line extending to the Arabian peninsula. Coins of the era show that the Axumites had a well established governement and is reputed to being the first sub saharan civilization to have its own currency.

Coins used by the axumite dynasty axum coins

These coins not only show the advanced level of civilization of the Axumite empire but also transition. The first coin on the left was used during the prechristian era, bearing symbols of pagan beliefs. The one on the right is a more recent one, probably issued in the 4th century AD. It is assumed that this coin was used during or after the reign of the King Ezana, the first Axumite ( and of course Ethiopian) king to have officially adopted christianity. The coin bears the mark of the christian cross on top.

The legacy of the Axumite to modern Ethiopia does not end with Christianity and structured government system. Their language,Geez, has been the origin of many modern Ethiopian languages, just as latin is to several European languages. Geez is the first known Ethiopian language, with alphabeths unique to the world. Although not currently used for communication purposes, many historical and religious books are written in the language. The Ethiopian Orthodox church still uses Geez for prayers and is compulsary to learn by anyone in the church system. Its historical value is so high that it is still taught and learned in institutions worldwide, particularly in Germany.

The other point which attracts several researchers and historians to Axum is the claim that the city of Axum, whose exact date of establishment remains unknown, is said to have been the first and the final resting place of the arc of the convenant. Ethiopian Orthodox Church chronicles insist that the son of King solomon and the Queen of Sheba ( known as Menelik) brought the arc to the city of Axum. After spending years in exile in different monastereis such as Tana Kirkos, Zeway Islands and Debredamo, the arc is said to have returned back to the city of Axum and remains there to date.

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The fallen ancient walls on the left known to have been built around the fourth century are thought to have been remains of the first Ethiopian church where the arc of the convenant initially rested. After years of Exile and its return to Axum, the Arc of the convenant is believed to be hosted in the church on the right known as Axum Tsion Church built right next to the first one. No one except a senior priest is allowed in or out therefore it is impossible to visually verify whether the arc is still there.

The biggest mystery with regards to the Axumite is how this civilization, one of the mightiest in the world, came to an end. With regards to this point only speculations which can not be taken as historical facts remain.

POST AXUM ERA.

The first historical evidences following that of Axum and the reign of Ezana is the expansion of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity as we know it today. Following the fall of Jerusalem and the attack on Christianity, Ethiopia is known to have isolated itself from the world. The age following the Axumite Empire is marked by the building and construction of several churches and monasteries as Christianity propagated rapidly in the country. The major characteristics of worship places of the time include remote churches, designed to shelter worshipers and religious relics from attack. Such churches/monaseteries include Tana Kirkos (Church built within the islands of lake Tana) Abune Yemata and Debredamo ( Church and monastery respectively built on top of a cliff)

Related links:

- MEDIEVAL ETHIOPIAN HISTORY

- RECENT ETHIOPIAN HISTORY

- 21ST CENTURY ETHIOPIA

-ETHIOPIAN HISTORICAL ATTRACTIONS

 

 

 

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