Thursday, December 12, 2019

Fourth-century church excavated in Aksum

ARCHAEOLOGY: Buried Christian (and Pagan) Basilica Discovered in Ethiopia's 'Lost Kingdom' of Aksum (Tom Metcalfe, Live Science).
"The basilica that we have found is quite important," Harrower said. "There have been other fourth-century basilicas that are known, but most of them were discovered a long time ago and some of them just without a lot of artifacts or information to be had."

In contrast, the early church at Beta Samati holds a trove of ancient artifacts, including early Christian religious artifacts, bronze coins, clay figurines and large pottery amphoras that were used to store either imported wine or olive oil.

"This is telling you that whoever is using this basilica has access to imported luxury trade goods and is quite interconnected into the ancient world and the trade networks," he said.

Some of the ancient bronze coins from the basilica confirmed its age: A coin from the early reign of Aksum's fourth-century King Ezana is decorated with a crescent moon symbolic of the southern Arabian god Almaqah, Harrower said.
Aksum (Axum) has a number of legendary and historical connections with ancient Judaism and early Christianity. I have summarized them here with links. More recent posts on Aksum are here and links.

The following detail in this article caught my eye:
One of the most striking finds is a black stone pendant, decorated with a Christian cross and the motto "venerable" in Ethiopia's ancient Ge'ez script. "This is about the size that you could hang around your neck," he said, "so maybe a priest would have worn this."
The ancient Jewish books of 1 Enoch and Jubilees survive complete only in translations in the ancient Ethiopic language Ge'ez. I do not know Ge'ez, so I can't comment authoritatively. But I do know that a fourth-century inscription in Ge'ez is quite early. The earliest manuscripts in Ge'ez, the Garima Gospels, date from the fourth to seventh centuries. All other manuscripts in Ge'ez come from many centuries later.

This pendant only has one word on it, but it sounds like an exciting discovery.

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