CNRS Ministère des Affaires Etrangères


Accueil > Research at CFEE > Axes and research programs > Theme 2. Materialities, written cultures, and oral history

Historical Archaeology in Ethiopia : political entities, cultures, religions

Following the work carried out by the French archaeological mission for the past sixty years, this research program gathers several teams working on Ethiopian archaeological sites and on Ethiopian artefacts from the Antiquity (Wakarida, Kwiha) and the Middle Age (Lalibela, Ifat, steles, Kwiha) up to Modern times (icons), including the transformation and reutilisation of ancient sites for related contemporary practices (Konso). This research combines two approaches : archaeological excavations and the analysis of materials as technological processes understood via the interpretation of texts (manuscripts, epigraphic documents, archives) as well as other sources (iconography, numismatics, interviews).This project aims at retracing the history of political entities and societies that inhabited the Ethiopian territory from the Aksumite period until the end of the XVIIIth century : city-states of the Aksumite period (IInd century B.C. - IVth century A.D.), Muslim sultanates between the XIIth and the XVIth centuries, Christian kingdoms between the VIIIth and the XVIIIth centuries, and communities using steles from the XIth century up to now. This history is not a closed one.Based on the study of funerary practices, epitaphs, steles implementations, churches, mosques, and what these elements can tell us about the organisation of territory, our research focuses on the interactions between the various political entities, theChristianisation and Islamisation of Ethiopian societies, and related social and political transformations. Its goal is to highlight the material, literary, and artistic cultures of these societies and the existing interactions between them.

This research program encompasses
-  The archaeological and ethnohistorical research project in Kwiha (Tigray), directed by Wolbert Smidt and Jean-François Breton, which started in 2014 ;
[image.png] The Wakarida mission - Archaeological and epigraphic research in the Tigray region (Ethiopia), pre-Aksumite and Aksumite periods - (VIIth century B.C. - VIIth century A.D.), directed by Iwona Gajda, initiated by Iwona Gajda and Fabienne Dugast in 2011 ;
-  The Lalibela mission - Archaeology of a rupestrian site, Christianisation and control of central Ethiopia at the end of the 1st and the beginning of the 2nd millennia A.D., directed by Claire Bosc-Tiessé and Marie-Laure Derat since 2009 ;
-  The project regarding the analysis of technologies and materials of Ethiopian paintings directed by Claire Bosc-Tiessé ;
[image.png] The archaeological research on the Medieval Islamic urban sites of East Ethiopia (Ifat, Tchärtchär, Harar, Zayla’) directed by François-Xavier Fauvelle and Bertrand Hirsch between 2000 and 2010, whose results are currently being published ;
-  The research on the Megalithic art and sites with steles (Roger Joussaume, Anne-Lise Goujon) ;
-  The collective research conducted in the Konso area since 1998.

Follow the news of this research program on the blog of the CFEE :