The ancient city of Samati has been inhabited for over 1000 years, dating back to the Pre-Aksumite era around 750 BC. NS. and up to the early Christian period from about 325 AD to 650 AD. NS.
An ancient 4th century church containing both early Christian and pagan artifacts was discovered during excavations of this ancient city in northern Ethiopia.
The finds shed rare light on the ancient kingdom of Aksum, a relatively little-known North African civilization that was one of the first to convert to Christianity in the 4th century.
Archaeologists have discovered an early Christian church built in the high Roman style called the basilica while excavating the buried city of Samati. The city, whose name in Ethiopian language - Tigrinya means "house of audience", was part of the kingdom centered in the ancient city of Aksum.
Axum has been a regional power since about 80 BC. NS. until 825 AD NS. and trading partner of Imperial Rome, due to its location close to the Red Sea on the ancient trade route to India. But its name is unknown to most people today.
“One of the things we're doing is trying to change that,” said archaeologist Michael Harrower of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
"People widely recognize Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Rome … but what they don't know is that the Axumite civilization was one of the most powerful civilizations in the Ancient World, and indeed one of the earliest," Harrower said.
During a German expedition in 1906, scientists investigated archaeological sites in the Aksumite kingdom, but Ethiopia's unsettled policies - including a 16-year civil war from the mid-1970s - meant that archaeological research has been sporadic since then, he said.
In a new study, Harrower and his colleagues unearthed a tall mound called Tell, which was formed by buried ancient buildings. They found that people had lived in Samati from about 750 BC. BC, in the so-called pre-Aksumite period, until about 650 AD. e., when the kingdom began a mysterious decline.
A key discovery this season is the ancient church, believed to have been built when the kingdom of Aksum was converted to Christianity around the same time that the new religion spread throughout the Roman Empire at the behest of Emperor Constantine in 323 CE. NS.
Aksum itself is the site of the Church of Our Lady of Zion, the legendary seat of the Ark of the Covenant, and some believe that the tablets of the Ten Commandments were kept there.