Polish archaeologists to research uncharted northern Ethiopia

The Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology (CAŚ) will commence a brand new research programme in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia – a yet uncharted region for archaeological missions.

The exploration of the region bordering with Sudan and Eritrea will be carried out by means of collaboration between the University of Warsaw’s (UW) CAŚ headed by Doctor Artur Obłuski and Mekelle University.

“In ancient and medieval times alike, North-Eastern Africa, although divided between a number of political structures, constituted a cultural community,” said Mr Obłuski, adding that “Speaking various languages, the communities were in constant contact with each other vying against one another or collaborating. From late ancient times, the Egyptian, Nubian and Axumite Churches were subordinate to the bishop of Alexandria. In some periods of history, this region was the centre of civilisation for Europe, Africa and Western Asia.”

As a result of an international competition organised by the CAŚ, the multinational mission will be headed by Italian doctor Michela Gaudiello specialising in the pre-Axum (1,000 BC) and Axum (1st-7th centuries AD) periods.

Together with Doctor Obłuski, Doctor Gaudiello has already carried out a preliminary surface survey in the North-Eastern part of the Tigray region. The survey resulted in outlining the work schedule and picking locations for research.

The first to be excavated is Debre Gergis – an important waypoint on the trade route between Axum and Mekelle. There is also a preserved church in Debre Gergis, in addition to a large stela visible on the ground’s surface.

The second location is Mifsas Baḥri where Doctor Gaudiello was already working on the terrain of a local basilica. The CAŚ UW works are scheduled to commence at one of these locations this autumn.

“This region was earmarked for future research particularly because there is little known about it,” said Doctor Gaudiello.

The ultimate goal of the mission is to identify the culture from which any remnants found at the excavation sites originate and trace its link to Sudan and Eritrea. The research may also prove significant in identifying the location of the ancient land of Punt.

According to Doctor Obłuski, another goal of the project is to create research perspectives for Polish researchers and students interested in the region.