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Mifsas Baḥri: a Late Aksumite Frontier Community in the Mountains of Southern Tigray

Survey, Excavation and Analysis, 2013–16

Michela Gaudiello and Paul A. Yule
Publication Year:
299pp. Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 44 tables, 160 figures (148 in colour) and 13 plates. The Gazetteer contains 61 colour images.
BAR number:


This book describes the broad network of studies which were involved in three years of archaeological research in the southern Tigray (Ethiopia), at the Mifsas Baḥri site. The uniqueness of this work lies in the subject of our research and in the final results. Mifsas Baḥri is the southernmost Late Aksumite (c. 550‒c. 700 CE) site known in Tigray, the ruins of which dominate the amazing landscape of Lake Ḥashenge. The data collected from the excavation, survey, pottery and anthropological analysis, historical and linguistic researches contribute to the knowledge of a region of southern Tigray during the so-called “Ethiopian dark age”. This book offers to the scientific community and to scholars involved in the Ethiopian studies new, convincing results and information regarding a region and a period hitherto unknown in the history of ancient Ethiopia.

Michela Gaudiello is an Italian archaeologist specialised in Ethiopian pottery, mostly in the area of pre-Aksumite ceramics. She worked for several years as a ceramic expert on Italian and Canadian expeditions in the northern Tigray before starting the project in Mifsas Baḥri. She is now involved in projects in Oman. Paul Yule is professor at Heidelberg University and is a well-known scholar in the archaeological community. Through the years, his work has taken him to Yemen, Iran, India, UAE and Oman. He is now involved in projects related to the Late Iron Age in Oman. Mifsas Baḥri represents his first experience in Ethiopia.
Contributors: Werner Arnold, Fesseha Berhe, Baldur Gabriel, Michela Gaudiello, Manjil Hazarika, Curt Hilbrig, Hiruy Daniel, Anne Mortimer, Svenja Partheil, Michael Raith, Wolbert G.C. Smidt, Tsehay Terefe, Yohannes Gebre Selassie, Paul A. Yule

‘(V)aluable evidence is presented of the history of an area thus far archaeologically unexplored, providing intriguing information on open questions such as the relationship between the core area of the Aksumite kingdom and the peripheral regions, the gradual shift of the core of the kingdom to the south, and the progressive Christianization of these territories. (…) Gaudiello and Yule’s book is very important as it presents the results of the first investigations conducted in this region thus far. It may be recommended to all scholars interested in the archaeology and history of northern Ethiopia and the kingdom of Aksum’s process of development.’ Luisa Sernicola, Aethiopica, 23 (2020)

‘This is an important volume and a very welcome addition to the archaeological literature of the northern Horn of Africa, as it represents one of very few book-length publications focused on a single Aksumite archaeological site area and the only one relating to the Late Aksumite period. In addition, it is the first comprehensive study focused on an Akusmite site area from southern Tigray, an area largely neglected by previous archaeological research…The speed of publication (field work ending in 2016 and publication in 2017) is admirable and will serve to assist with site preservation and protection by increasing public awareness of the Mifsas Baḥri sites and the cultural heritage of the Lake Ḥashenge region…BAR Publishing’s inclusion of color photos is testimony to the overall high quality presentation.’ Matthew C. Curtis, Journal of African Archaeology, 15 (2017)

‘In conclusion, this volume is a crucial contribution to the archaeology of the Horn of Africa, providing new information about a region that hitherto has not been investigated by archaeologists. It should be read by any scholar interested in the archaeology and history of this region.’ Rodolfo Fattovich, Antiquity, December 2017

‘Mifsas Baḥri is the first significant site of the so-called ‘Dark-Age’, and so this book contributes significantly to our knowledge about this region and this period by advancing research in this field of study.’ Peer reviewer

‘I have no doubt that researchers (historians and archaeologists) will be very interested in this book. The quality of the archaeological excavation as well as the different analytical data have allowed the authors to present serious and convincing results.’ Peer reviewer

Table of Contents (S2839_9781407315799_ToC.pdf, 145 Kb) [Download]