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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Timothy INSOLL, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK

Islamic archaeology in Ethiopia is under-researched. Since 2014, to help redress this, archaeological investigation has been focused on the site of Harlaa (Dire Dawa), and in various locations in Harar and its surrounding region, as part of a project, “Becoming Muslim: Conversion to Islam and Islamisation in Eastern Ethiopia” funded by the European Research Council (694254-ERC-2015-AdG). Harar is a key centre of Islam and Islamization and was also a hub for trade networks connecting the Ethiopian interior with the Red Sea coast. The origins of the city are unclear and the results of the first archaeological test excavations completed in four areas of the city, Hamburti, the Amir Nur Shrine, Shagnila Toya, and the Amir’s Palace, will be described. The results from Harar will be contextualized within their wider region with particular reference to the site of Harlaa where occupation has been dated to between the late 8th and 13th centuries AD. In Harlaa a range of structures have been excavated including a sequence of jewellers’ workshops, a mosque, and tombs. This evidence will be discussed and the site contextualised so as to explore its potential role as a key centre of trade situated between the Red Sea coast and the Ethiopian highlands. Finally, the implications of the research for inferences about Islamisation and for the relationship between Harar and Harlaa will be considered.