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Early Christian Basilica Discovered in Ethiopia

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Ethiopia Cross PendantBALTIMORE, MARYLAND—According to a Live Science report, archaeologist Michael Harrower of Johns Hopkins University and his colleagues have discovered a Christian basilica dated to the fourth century at the site of Beta Samati in northern Ethiopia, in what was the ancient kingdom of Aksum. Located on the Red Sea, Aksum was on the trade route linking Rome and India. The church is thought to have been built at about the same time as Aksum’s King Ezana converted the powerful kingdom to Christianity in A.D. 325. “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,” Harrower said. Artifacts such as clay figurines of cattle and heads of bulls, a ring made of gold in the Roman fashion with a carnelian engraved with an Aksumite bull head and vines, and a black stone pendant with a cross, suggest that earlier worship practices were mixed with Christian practices during a transition period, Harrower explained. Some of the bronze coins at the site bear an image of a crescent moon symbolic of the southern Arabian god Almaqah and date to the early fourth century, before the conversion to Christianity, while coins minted after A.D. 325 bear an image of a Christian cross. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Antiquity. To read about high-altitude occupation some 40,000 years ago, go to "World Roundup: Ethiopia."

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