Ethiopia Aksum Excavation

A Christian Orthodox girl sings with her choir on a road on the outskirts of present-day Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a place steeped in legend where Christianity was adopted in the later part of the Aksumite period in fourth and fifth centuries. The new archaeological finds date back even earlier. REUTERS

Excavation of the ancient city of Aksum in northern Ethiopia has uncovered jewellery and artefacts dating back to the first and second centuries, indicating the Roman Empire was trading there much earlier than believed so far.

One of the graves shows a woman buried, curled up on her side, gazing into a Roman bronze mirror. Sporting a beautiful bronze ring, the woman was also wearing a necklace of thousands of tiny beads, and a beaded belt, clearly indicating her high status.

Near the body was a lump of eyeliner placed nearby in a bronze spoon.

Louise Schofield, a former British Museum curator, who headed the major six-week excavation believes the woman she has nicknamed “sleeping beauty” was beautiful and much loved, going by the positioning of the body and the objects.

Two perfectly preserved drinking beakers, a flask to catch the tears of the dead and a clay jug could have contained food for afterlife, says Schofield.

She hopes the contents can be analysed, writes the Observer.

The team also found skeletons of warriors wearing large iron bangles.

A glass perfume flask and another female skeleton wearing a valuable necklace of 1,065 coloured glass beads are among the other finds.

Aksum, the capital of the Aksumite kingdom that ruled parts of north-east Africa for centuries before 940 AD, formed a major link in the trade between the Roman Empire and India. Very little is known about this civilisation as also about Ethiopian past.

A new species of hominin, called Australopithecus deyiremeda, closely related to the famous “Lucy” species Australopithecus afarensis was discovered in the Afar region of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, which was believed to have been the last stop in Africa for early humans who migrated to other continents, was recently ousted from that position by a genome analysis study which showed more similarities between the Egyptian and Eurasian genomes than Ethiopian and Eurasian ones.