Yeha is a large Bronze Age archaeological site located about 25 km northeast of the modern town of Adwa, in Ethiopia. It is the largest and most impressive site in the Horn of Africa showing evidence of contact with South Arabia, leading some scholars to represent Yeha and other sites as precursors to the Aksumite civilization.
The earliest occupation at Yeha dates to the first millennium BC, with a Great Temple, a "palace" (perhaps an elite residence) at Grat Be'al Gebri, and the cemetery at Daro Mikael with shaft-tombs. Three artifacts scatters probably representing residential settlements have been identified within a few kilometers of the main site.
Chronology at Yeha
- Yeha I: 8th-7th centuries BC. Earliest structure located at the palace at Grat Be'al Gebri; and a small temple where the Great Temple would be constructed later.
- Yeha II: 7th-5th centuries BC. Great Temple and the palace at Grat Be'al Gebri built, elite cemetery at Daro Mikael begun.
- Yeha III: Late first millennium BC. Late phase of construction at Grat Be'al Gebri, tombs T5 and T6 at Daro Mikael.
Arabian Contacts at Yeha
The Yeha III period has traditionally been identified as a pre-Axumite occupation, based primarily on the identification of evidence for contact with South Arabia. Nineteen fragmentary inscriptions on stone slabs, altars and seals have been found at Yeha, written in a South Arabian script.
However, excavator Rodolfo Fattovich notes that the South Arabian ceramics and related artifacts recovered from Yeha and other sites in Ethiopia and Eritrea are a small minority and do not support the presence of a consistent South Arabian community. Fattovich and others believe that these do not represent a precursor to the Axumite civilization.
Excavations at Yeha to date include the Great Temple, the palace at Grat e'al Gebri, and the cemetery, under the direction of Fattovich and colleagues.
Fattovich R. 2009. Reconsidering Yeha, c. 800–400 BC. African Archaeological Review 26(4):275-290.
For more on Aksum, see Stuart Munro Hay's The Royal Tombs of Aksum photo essay.