Reconstruction of the ancient cultural area of Yeha (Tigray/Ethiopia)

The long-term project, carried out by the Orient Department of the DAI (Archaeology) and the Research Unit Ancient South Arabia and Northeast Africa of the FSU Jena (Epigraphy), investigates the cultural contacts between the Sabaeans who migrated from South Arabia in the early 1st millennium BC and the population living in the Tigray region. The main point of research is the process of interaction of South Arabian and indigenous populations. The geographical focus is the site of Yeha, which, due to its monumental architecture and written evidence, is considered the political and religious center of this culturally and historically important but so far only rudimentarily explored region in the northern Horn of Africa. Ethnohistorical research is also included, which, due to the conservative mnemotic landscape of Tigray, allows methodologically justified conclusions to be drawn about ancient social forms and ways of life.

The epigraphic subproject carried out in Jena includes:

Studies on the Ethio-Sabaic Royal Inscriptions

Written in the Ancient South Arabian alphabet, the Ethio-Sabaic royal inscriptions show great similarities in language and form with the corresponding Early Sabaic inscriptions from South Arabia from the 1st half of the 1st millennium BCE. However, they are also characterized by significant differences to them. In a separate study, these similarities and differences will be systematically evaluated, including the question to which extent they provide insight into the political, social, and religious history of the DʿMT community. In addition, new excavation results from Yeha and the surrounding area will also be included, which will allow a more detailed chronology of this text group in the early 1st millennium BCE. (Norbert Nebes)

Studies on the Ethio-Sabaic Inscriptions

The research objective is the philological and content-related evaluation of the Ethio-Sabaic inscriptions known so far on the basis of the Ancient South Arabian text corpus. Since, in addition to a number of name graffiti, the inscriptions are mainly dedications, a special focus of the work is the evaluation of the information on the Ethio-Sabaean cult and religion. An analysis of the personal names als well as the names of clans and places will provide clues to the origin of the authors of the inscriptions and the population structure of DʿMT. A systematic presentation of the linguistic and paleographic peculiarities of the Ethio-Sabaic inscriptions will also be included. (Helen Wiegleb)

Ethnohistorical Studies - Tigray as a Conservative Mnemotic Landscape

The aim is to document and analyze local knowledge, oral historiographical traditions, and traditional sociopolitical practices in their linguistic and cultural context. Village material culture, which often provides explanations for archaeological finds, is also examined. In addition, oral traditions on culture and settlement history in central and eastern Tigray at ancient sites associated with Yeha are documented and analyzed for their basic patterns, some of which preserve memories of ancient ethnonyms, cultural techniques, pre-Christian religious practices, local political organizational forms, and events. (Wolbert Smidt)

research assistants

Mariam Kilargiani, M.A.
Dr. Wolbert Smidt
Helen Wiegleb, B.A.

former research assistants

Tobias Gerbothe
Dominik Oesterle, M.A.
Robert Stähle, M.A.

cooperation partners

Authority for Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH)

Tigray Culture and Tourism Bureau (TCTB)

Title image: The ancient city of Mārib | © Iris Gerlach

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