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Axumite Civilization


Obelisk at Axum, Ethiopia

Obelisk at Axum, Ethiopia

Niall Crotty
Definition: The Axumite civilization was a Coptic pre-Christian state in Ethiopia, from about AD 100-800. The Axumites were known for massive stone stelae, copper coinage, and the importance of their large influential port on the Red Sea, Aksum. Aksum was an extensive state, with a farming economy, and deeply involved in trade by the first century AD with the Roman empire. After Meroe shut down, Aksum controlled trading between Arabia and Sudan, including goods such as ivory, skins and manufactured luxury goods. Axumite architecture is a blend of Ethiopian and South Arabian cultural elements.

The obelisk shown in the photograph by Niall Crotty was constructed in the 4th century AD, and stands 20.6 meters high. It is only the third tallest known obelisk; the tallest was 33 meters high.

Archaeologists associated with the study of the Axumite civilization include Enno Littman, Stuart Munro Hay and David Phillipson.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology. Sources for the term include the references listed on the front page of the Dictionary, and the websites listed in the sidebar.
Alternate Spellings: Aksumite
Acksum, Ethiopia; Matara, Eritrea.

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