Around 2,700 years ago, the people of the Saba Empire in Ethiopia built a monumental temple, which scientists discovered it in 2020. The area in the northern highlands of Ethiopia in the province of Tigray is now a tiny village that lies between mountains of volcanic rock and fertile regions. In imperial times, however, this place was a religious and a political center of Saba. We consider this society to be one of the most important in the south of the Sahel. Their culture goes back to the legendary Queen Sheba, whose empire was in what is now Yemen.
In the region, you will find well-preserved ancient temple ruins, which are the oldest standing structures in the country. Scientists have assigned these to the Da’amot kingdom, which existed until the establishment of the Kingdom of Aksum (Aksumite Empire) about 2,000 years ago. The researchers thought that it was the earliest cultural building in Africa, apart from Sudan and Egypt, but now they have also discovered the remains of another monumental building.
Migration From What Is Now Yemen
The culture that constructed such buildings is likely to have emerged after the migration of some population groups from Yemen. Together with Germany, Ethiopia has set up a research group to investigate the cultural connections between the local population and the immigrants from the Kingdom of Saba. During this study, the scientists take a closer look at the interaction between the distinct cultures. It is an important topic for research as you can find clear indigenous and South Arabian influences today in script, religion, and language.
New Temple Discovered
You can also find the monumental structures in the unfortified settlement of Yeha. Beside a modern-day church and the surrounding area, there is also a 60- by 60-meter palace with its administrative buildings. The great temple is a restored sanctuary dedicated to the supreme Sabaean god Almaqah.
Well-known Stone Masonry Technique
Recently, excavations have uncovered another temple. Its 1.40-meter-thick outer walls and the pillared hall inside the building can now be reconstructed with the help of archeological finds. So far, however, only a few artifacts have been uncovered, but the temple has a clear stepped arrangement of ashlar layers in the outer wall. As it was customary at the time, people laid the stones without mortar and dowels, and the visible cuboid surfaces have a smoothed edge and a roughened central surface The stonemason technique corresponds precisely to that which one is already familiar to us.
Based on these details, the scientists can accurately date the age of the find too. It dates to the 7th century BC. This building type came to Ethiopia with the immigrants from the Kingdom of Saba. At that time, the construction style found its way into the architectural design of the shrines of Yeha as well. The new findings underline the cultural importance of the site of the time. Further research will show whether the hypotheses of scientists are right or wrong.