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Foundations of an African Civilisation: Aksum and the Northern Horn, 1000 BC - AD 1300

Foundations of an African Civilisation: Aksum and the Northern Horn, 1000 BC - AD 1300

Hardback Eastern African Studies (Hardcover)

By (author) David W. Phillipson

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  • Publisher: James Currey
  • Format: Hardback | 304 pages
  • Dimensions: 142mm x 218mm x 26mm | 558g
  • Publication date: 31 August 2012
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 1847010415
  • ISBN 13: 9781847010414
  • Edition: 1
  • Illustrations note: 87, 52 black and white, 35 line drawing
  • Sales rank: 1,206,432

Product description

Focuses on the Aksumite state of the first millennium AD in northern Ethiopia and southern Eritrea, its development, florescence and eventual transformation into the so-called medieval civilisation of Christian Ethiopia. This book seeks to apply a common methodology, utilising archaeology, art-history, written documents and oral tradition from a wide variety of sources; the result is a far greater emphasis on continuity than previous studies have revealed. It is thus a major re-interpretation of a key development in Ethiopia's past, while raising and discussing methodological issues of the relationship between archaeology and other historical disciplines; these issues, which have theoretical significance extending far beyond Ethiopia, are discussed in full. The last millennium BC is seen as a time when northern Ethiopia and parts of Eritrea were inhabited by farming peoples whose ancestry may be traced far back into the local 'Late Stone Age'. Colonisation from southern Arabia, to which defining importance has been attached by earlier researchers, is now seen to have been brief in duration and small in scale, its effects largely restricted to elite sections of the community. Re-consideration of inscriptions shows the need to abandon the established belief in a single 'Pre-Aksumite' state. New evidence for the rise of Aksum during the last centuries BC is critically evaluated. Finally, new chronological precision is provided for the decline of Aksum and the transfer of centralised political authority to more southerly regions. A new study of the ancient churches - both built and rock-hewn - which survive from this poorly-understood period emphasises once again a strong degree of continuity across periods that were previously regarded as distinct. David W. Phillipson is the former Director, Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and Professor of African Archaeology, Cambridge University. He is currently an Emeritus Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and an Hon. Professor, University College, London. Published in association with the British Institute in Eastern Africa.

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Review quote

Offers a valuable introduction to what is still a very poorly developed research field. . As a way into the complex world of 'Ethiopian' archaeology this book has much to offer. ANTIQUITY (A) welcome synthesis of current scholarship (and) an important contribution to African history that belongs in all university libraries. CHOICE An impressive piece of work, valuable not only as a statement on current archaeological research in Ethiopia and related areas, but also because it incorporates evidence from historical documentation, linguistics, and other sources. (...) This is a book that should be added to the shelves not only of those interested in the Ethiopian past but also of those with wider interests in later African archaeology and history. JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORY Foundations of an African Civilisation is an unparalleled contribution to the archaeological literature about Aksum, which will aid both the established researcher and the recently initiated student of Aksumite studies alike. Its comprehensive, yet largely accessible treatment of a range of archaeological, epigraphic, and historical data, excellent organisation and informative illustrations are a tribute and a testimony to David Phillipson's long-running dedication to exploring this most intriguing ancient African civilisation. AZANIA