Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Tarn PHILIPP, Independent Researcher
Michael GERVERS, University of Toronto

The excavation of contemporary rock churches offers invaluable insight into the creation of earlier rock-hewn examples. The craftsmanship draws on age-old ingenuity, indicating the possible time frame, method and sequence of excavation associated with such structures. Documentation of recently carved churches is not without its challenges, however. The irregularity of the structures has proved most challenging in accurately drawing them up. Furthermore, sites under excavation are in a state of constant transformation. The process of carving a church from rock is of course utterly different from built construction; it is the removal rather than addition of a material that results in the architecture being revealed. That today’s craftsmen use no architectural drawings and often believe they are fulfilling God’s work typically makes future development both spontaneous and unpredictable. Further investigation and study of older churches previously recorded may highlight a significant number of churches that have been subject to alteration in the past 45 years. This in turn may indicate whether the present phenomenon is a revival or in fact a continued tradition that has remained unnoticed until present.