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Two early medieval churches discovered in Eritrea

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Ruined Temple of Mariam Wakino in Qohaito ancient city, Eritrea

Daniel Esparza - published on 12/21/22

The medieval churches, which were once part of the Kingdom of Aksun, date back to the 5th century.

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A team of archaeologists working in Eritrea have found the remains of two early medieval churches. One of them is a cathedral located near the center of the city of Adulis, and the other, located further east of the city port, includes an elaborate ring of columns that proves the church once had a dome.

Even though these two churches were first excavated in 1868 and in 1907 respectively, they have not been the object of careful research until now.

The buildings have been dated as built in the 5th century, meaning they would have belonged to the Kingdom of Aksum.

The Kingdom of Aksum ruled over a territory that covered most of modern Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, from the 1st to the 10th century. Christianity spread into the kingdom in the 4th century after the conversion of King Ezana. However, as noted in the article published by Medievalists.net, “little physical evidence remains of this early stage of Christianization […]  The research into these two churches is helping fill this gap,” as now, more than a hundred years after these two churches were first excavated, archaeologists are doing research in these buildings using modern techniques.

Medievalists.net explains that Dr. Gabriele Castiglia, from the Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana, is leading a team that is carrying out radiocarbon dating on both churches. The data gathered is backing the team’s efforts to understand the relevance of these buildings, and the role they might have played in the gradual religion transition of the Horn of Africa.

You can access Dr. Castiglia’s paper on the matter, as published in the academic journal Antiquity, here.

Tags:
AfricaArchaeologyChristians in Africa
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