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[PANEL] 0510 THE MEDIEVAL ETHIOPIAN DYNAMICS (12TH-17TH C): STATE, PEOPLE, SPACE AND KNOWLEDGE IN MOVEMENT
DERESSE Ayenachew, Ass. Professor of History, Debre Berhan University, Ethiopia
Marie-Laure DERAT, Professor of History, CNRS-Paris 1 Universite, France
Chikage OBA-SMIDT; Julien LOISEAU; Mauricio LAPCHIK MINSKI; Galina A. BALASHOVA;
TEKESTE Kashu Negash; Serge A. FRANTSOUZOFF; Marie-Laure DERAT; Claire BOSC-TIESSÉ;
Nadia KHALAF; ALEMSEGED Debele; DERESSE Ayenachew; Timothy INSOLL
As the remarkable characteristic of medieval Ethiopian society is displacement. Nothing was static, the sates voluntarily move throughout the kingdom. States also commissions to force the displacement of people from one place to another. The institutions of religions were not immobile. They move to acquire knowledge from outside world and brought the knowledge to their region. In their arenas adapt the knowledge to the Ethiopian perspectives. They travel to unknown world. They battle with "unbelievers", defy the nobilities and organize the future. The people travel to commerce packing the merchandises on the back of camels and mules to every angles of the medieval kingdom. Ethiopia is the country of migration and adaptation. The pastoralist passes to agriculturalists, intellectual, erudite and military elites. The environmental distress migrates hastily the Ethiopian medieval world. Pilgrims gathers yearly medieval Ethiopian societies into many churches and shrines. War, indeed, killed and enslaved many but brought tolerance and sharing knowledge. Medieval society writes, recites, paints, erects, demolishes, restores and preserves the past. They fashioned our past in movement. Thus it traces today the contemporary society of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is proud of contributing outstanding knowledge into the world, thanks to medieval society heritages
AN ANALYSIS OF ORAL HISTORIOGRAPHIES ON A DOWNFALL OF ISLAMIC TRADERS IN THE MEDIEVAL NORTH-EASTERN ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0510-02]
In this paper, I will discuss the possible reasons for the spread of the Black Death in Medieval North-Eastern Ethiopia through an analysis of three oral historiographies narrated by Baarentuu-Oromo informants. Similar oral historiographies came from the Rayyaa in Tigray, the Karayyuu in Wollo and the Rayyituu in Baale. They all speak of a similar event which affected the Doba`a in Tigray, the Issa in Wollo and the Harla who hail from between Awash and Northern Baale. These people were Muslim traders in Medieval times. According to the stories, these people sinned against Islam and as a result brought about a disaster that caused huge loss of life – a punishment from Allah. There are other accounts concerning the Afar on the Red Sea coast and others from Tigray, which also report a disaster in Medieval times. My hypothesis is that the disaster was the spread of the Black Death through Islamic trading routes. There are further reports of the Black Death affecting Egypt and North Sudan, resulting in huge loss of life and even the downfall of the kingdom. After the mid-14th century, it is thought that the Black Death reached the Red Sea coast and the long-distance Muslim trading routes.
BRINGING MOVEMENT? OUTSIDERS FROM ISLAMIC LANDS IN MEDIEVAL ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0510-11]
Arabic source material from the Mamluk period (1250-1517) brings evidence of outsiders coming to Ethiopia from remote Islamic lands, apart from the customary coming of Egyptian clerics. Be they emissaries or deserters, merchants or preachers, they brought items and ideas and introduced foreign dynamics into Ethiopia. This paper aims at investigating some case studies in order to assess their potential impact on power and movement of knowledge in Ethiopia. The increasing local rivalry between Christian and Islamic politics in the Middle Ages seems to have opened new opportunities for such outsiders.
CHURCH, STATE AND SOCIETY IN MEDIEVAL ETHIOPIA DURING SAYFA AR’AD’S REIGN (1344-1372) [Abstract ID: 0510-06]
Son of Amda Seyon (1314-1344) and Zar'a Ya`qob’s grandfather (1434-1468), Sayfa Ar’ad was shadowed both by his father’s “Glorious victories” and by his grandson’s fundamental role in the development and [r]evolution that permanently changed the characteristics of the Ethiopian Church from the fifteenth century onwards. Indeed, it is widely recognized that both Amda Seyon and Zar'a Ya`qob were the two main rulers of the golden period of Church and State in Ethiopia between the supposed restoration of the Solomonic dynasty (1270) to the eve of the Muslim invasions during the sixteenth century. This trend, on the one hand, is largely due to the existence of easily accessed chronicles and historical records that directly describes their rule, and on the other hand, a result of their tremendous achievements and exploits. However, other sources, such as hagiographies and literary and religious works that arose during this golden period – and in this case, during the second half of the fourteenth century – may help us to unveil some historical events and deeds concerning the other rulers of this age that were systematically forgotten and ignored by historians and research. This paper aims to reconstruct, reconsider and analyze the main social, political and religious events which took place during Sayfa Ar’ad’s reign. The heir of Amda Seyon ruled for almost thirty years during one of the most intriguing and turbulent periods following the restoration and consolidation of the Solomonic dynasty in Ethiopia. Not only the geographical boundaries of the Ethiopian kingdom were expanded, but also the diversity of its people. Some traditions concerning facts that had been attributed to Amda Seyon were in fact related to him. Particularly noteworthy were the emergence of new monastic movements and religious ideas took place under Sayfa Ar’ad’s reign, as well as the intensification of some of the fiercest clashes between the monastic clergy and the king, and between the Christian kingdom and the surrounding Muslim peoples. A reconstruction of Sayfa Ar’ad’s period of rule will help us to understand the appearance of new religious ideas and movements, as well as political and social conflicts that dramatically changed the development of the Church, the State, and the society in Medieval Ethiopia.
CULTURAL POLICIES OF ETHIOPIAN MONARCHS KING EZANA, EMPEROR LALIBELA, EMPEROR AMDA SEYON, EMPEROR ZERA YACOB [Abstract ID: 0510-09]
Ethiopia has created its own distinct culture. Throughout its history, its culture has contributed to the nation's spiritual experience, which was passed it on to the next generations. In this way the multiethnic realm (more than 80 peoples) was able to develop into a political unity, without which it would have been impossible to achieve higher living standards and civic unity and determine the society's developmental goals. King Ezana played a pivotal role in the development of cultural policy in the 2nd-4th centuries BC. He made Ge'ez the official language of the Kingdom of Aksum and introduced vowel indication into the Ge'ez script. The king's other major reform was the adoption of Christianity as the state religion, which had far-reaching consequences for the entire region. Emperor Lalibela (1190-1228) during his reign built 11 fabulous subterranean rock-hewn churches in the former capital of Lalibela. The churches have such an unusual internal architecture that they have been registered by UNESCO as world's heritage sites, and Lalibela himself was canonized by the Ethiopian Church. The cultural policy of Emperor Amda Seyon (1312-1342) placed the emphasis on the development of literature, mainly in the field of historiography. It was during this period that the important book The Glory of the Kings was written, based on the legend that the Ethiopian kings descend from the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and that their son Menelik stole a great Jewish relic, the Ark of the Covenant. Zera Yacob's (1434-1468) cultural policy focused on harmonizing church rituals and defining the relationship between clergy and laity. He wrote 8 books on various topics, including The Book of Light, The Book of Nativity, etc. His other innovation was the translation of the Coptic Synaxarium, a collection of short hagiographies of saints of the Coptic Church, to which Ethiopian saints were gradually added. This created the basis for the creation of an indigneousl hagiographic literature in Ethiopia. Thus, the era of Zera Yacob became a turning point not only in the development of the state and the church, but also in the history of Ethiopian literature. These monarchs pursued cultural policies that contributed significantly to the development of the culture of their country.
DATING THE ZAGWE PERIOD: ANOTHER LOOK [Abstract ID: 0510-10]
A great deal has happened since I wrote an exploratory paper in 1993 on the Zagwe period within the context of post-Aksumite urban culture. In a slightly revised paper on the same subject published in 2006, my re-reading of Otto Neugebauer (1989) convinced me to argue that the Zagwe ruled from c. 930 to 1270 AD.In this paper I shall present the research and the debate on the chronology of the Zagwe from the early 1920s when the thesis of the short chronology (1137-1270) was first put forward until 2012, when the thesis of a longer chronology (c 930 to 1270) has become more acceptable explanation.
HAGIOGRAPHIC TRADITION AS A SOURCE FOR RECONSTRUCTING MAJOR EVENTS OF LALIBÄLA’S BIOGRAPHY [Abstract ID: 0510-05]
Although the Acts of Lalibäla, the most prominent king of the Zagwe dynasty, has not been published yet, not only critically, but even completely, considerable extracts from them edited by Jules Perruchon and Stanislaw Kur include unique data on vicissitudes of his life before his accession to the throne and of his reign. These are such details as the attempt of poisoning him undertaken by his sister that resulted in the death of his servant, who was trying his food, his flight from the royal court and wanderings in the desert where he maintained his existence by hunting, and also his marriage with a betrothed girl (Mäsqäl Kəbra), which provoked idle talk among common people. In the description of Lalibäla’s enthronement the lack of any mention of diadem or crown is worth noting. It seems that such an emblem of royalty was not in use during the Zagwe period. The occurrence of the term wäldä nägaśi “son of the king” in an account on Lalibäla’s campaign against a rebel lord proves to be of particular interest, since it has a direct parallel in Sabaic inscriptions of the 3rd century AD, viz. wld/ngšy-n, which designated the commander of Aksumite expeditionary troops in South Arabia. The predominance of natural economy in Ethiopia is clearly illustrated by the case of paying taxes with sealed jugs of honey. In spite of that Lalibäla had an unlimited budget to pay with silver and gold for diggers and stonemasons, who were recruited to erect a complex of ten monumental churches in the province of Lasta. Hence an assumption about the financial participation of the Coptic Church in that project seems rather plausible. In all probability, its hierarchs sought in such a way to bypass the Islamic prohibition to construct new Christian cult buildings. It should be concluded that a lot of details of the private and public life of King Lalibäla preserved in oral transmission were included in his Acts, the historical value of which has been underestimated.
HISTORY AND ARCHEOLOGY OF LALIBELA ON THE LONG TIME: A SITE IN CONSTANT EVOLUTION [Abstract ID: 0510-08]
The churches of Lalibela, attributed to the sovereign of the same name, King Lalibela, who we know to have reigned in the late 12th century and in the first third of the 13th century. are cut out of solid rock. It is an exceptional archaeological and historical site studied by a team of historians, art historians, archaeologists, liturgist, geo-morphologists… since 2009. Crossing text analysis and archaeological data, this team is now able to distinguish different phases in its history, and sequences of transformation probably reflecting a long occupation period spanning at least eleven centuries (from the 10th to the 21st century). The paper will present the main results of this work.
RESULTS OF THE HARLAA ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY, ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0510-13]
This paper will discuss the initial results of a field survey carried out at the village of Harlaa near Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, as part of the ERC-funded project ‘Becoming Muslim: Conversion to Islam and Islamisation in Eastern Ethiopia’ (694254-ERC-2015-AdG). The main aim of the survey was to record features found in the village associated with the medieval Islamic period (c.10th-14th C. AD), and create a comprehensive topographic map of the area and the associated gazetteer. During the survey, over 100 features of archaeological interest were identified including Harlaa period housing, storage pits, wells and grave markers. These findings compliment the ongoing excavations directed by Timothy Insoll indicating that Harlaa was a multi-component site with extensive evidence for trade, industry, settlement, and burial centers as well as mosques and defensive walls.
TERRITORIAL EXPANSION AND RESISTANCE IN THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD: THE CONFRONTATION BETWEEN KING AMDE TSION AND THE WARJIH MUSLIM COMMUNITY IN THE KINGDOM OF SHAWA [Abstract ID: 0510-01]
This article deals with a struggle between the Christian Highland kingdom, led by kings like Amde Tsion, and the Warjih Muslim community in Shewa during the Medieval period. The confrontation occurred between two groups which had unequal power, various religious backgrounds and different motives of struggle. In this struggle, for the former group, adding enclaves to its kingdom in central Ethiopia through territorial expansion was its major target. However, for the latter group, defending its enclaves - which eventually secured its Islamic identity - was the primary motive of its resistance. Thus, the article tells a story about how the Warjih as a small group continued to exist in Shewa by overcoming the powerful forces of Amde Tsion. In this article it is argued that from the twelfth to the fourteenth century the Warjih people engaged in herdsmen and commercial group type of resistance against the powerful Christian Highland kingdom, a prototype of agricultural society. Moreover, the Warjih swore their allegiance to Muslim principalities such as Ifat in resisting their competitors during the Medieval period. The ideas and arguments of this article are mainly reconstructed by re-examining secondary sources such as books, articles and unpublished works, and a few existing primary sources. Oral sources are slightly used to narrate the recent historical development of this people. Data analysis and interpretation which consider the historical setting of the period are used to reconstruct this account. In its finding, this article suggests that the confrontation between the Christian Highland kingdom and the Warjih people was an example of the struggle between agricultural, and herdsmen and commercial groups during the Medieval period. In this struggle the Warjih became an actual threat to King Amde Tsion until their resistance failed. Meanwhile, the Warjih were not totally evicted from their enclaves in Shewa. The strength to resist their contenders for along time must have made a contribution to the survival strategy of these people.
THE SƎR’ĀTA GWU’EZO: AN ORDER OF THE MOVING KATAMĀ IN ETHIOPIA (13TH -16TH) [Abstract ID: 0510-03]
The medieval Katamā (town) of Ethiopia was itinerant throughout the period. The king moved around his kingdom with more than thirty thousand people, including soldiers, civil servants, merchants, diplomats, artisans, etc. A medieval Ethiopian king could travel a thousand kilometers from the north to south of the kingdom for military and religious reasons, or to collect tribute. Ethiopian sources left accounts of King Amda Ṣeyon (1314-1344) travelling from Šawā through Təgray to Massawa on the Red Sea, and then moving on to Goğğam, Damot, and Hadyā in 1316. It is evident that this king travelled with his huge military contingent and civil servants during his military campaigns. King Zar’a Ya’eqob (1434-1468) voyaged from Amhara province (most of Western South Wollo) to Aksum in 1436. After three years, in 1439, he moved his court southward, passing through Lāstā, Angot, Amhara and on to Šawā, Ifāt, Faṭgar, before descending to the province of Dawaro (part of Eastern Harar) in 1445. In the same year, he probably returned to Dabra Bərhān, in Šawā. These medieval court displacements were associated with the custom of moving capital, as recounted in the Chronicle of King Galawdewos (1540-1559). Our study reveals that the rules of displacement were instituted during the reign of king Amda Ṣeyon. The Sər’āta Gəbr recalls that Amda Ṣeyon first established the regulations for the Gwu’ezo. The chronicle of King Zar’a Ya’eqob set the rules for the relocation of the king's court. Article 24 of the Sər’āta Mangəst details the rules for the movement of the court, particularly the king, nobilities and the army. In the early 16th century, the Portuguese traveller F. Alvarez was candid in his impressions of the official displacement orders for the court of King Ləbna Dəngəl (1508-1540). The Sər’āta Gwu’ezo provided the layout of the Katamā (town), where the king was in the center, surrounded by nobility, clergy, even diplomats and other inhabitants. It provides a picture of the social order of the medieval society in movement. The aim of this study is to cast light on the role of Sər’āta Gwu’ezo in forging the process of interaction and integration in mediaeval Ethiopia. It also analyses the importance of a two-century-old institution as the key political administration system of the medieval kingdom of Ethiopia.
‘BECOMING MUSLIM’. ISLAMIC ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION IN EASTERN ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0510-12]
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.