Archaeologists discovered basilica Roman –style 60 feet long, 40 feet wide church located in Beta Samati which means, house of audience” in the local language, which could point to its role as an important ancient administrative hub.
at the ancient Aksumite empire since fourth century A.D which is said to be 1,700 –year-old.
The building was initially built and used by Romans for administrative purposes before it was adopted at the time of Constantine by Christians as their places of worship.
According to the Smithsonian , the discovery of the church and its contents “confirm Ethiopian tradition that Christianity arrived at an early date in an area nearly 3,000 miles from Rome.”
“The find suggests that the new religion spread quickly through long-distance trading networks that linked the Mediterranean via the Red Sea with Africa and South Asia, shedding fresh light on a significant era about which historians know little,” it adds.
According to Christian Post, Christianity had reached Egypt by the third century A.D., it was not until Constantine’s legalization of Christian observance that the church expanded widely across Europe and the Near East, notes the Smithsonian. Thanks to their new discovery, researchers “can now feel more confident in dating the arrival of Christianity to Ethiopia to the same time frame.”
“[This find] is to my knowledge the earliest physical evidence for a church in Ethiopia, [as well as all of sub-Saharan Africa,]” Aaron Butts, a professor of Semitic and Egyptian languages at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., told the Smithsonian.
Michael Harrower of Johns Hopkins University, the archaeologist leading the team, said that while the empire of Aksum was “one of the world’s most influential ancient civilizations,” it “remains one of the least widely known.”
“The excavations of Beta Samati help fill important gaps in our understanding of ancient Pre-Aksumite and Aksumite civilizations,” he said.
A pendant carved with a cross and incised with Ethiopic word “venerable,” as well as incense burners, was discovered among many other religious and secular artifacts like gold ring, stamp seals, cattle figurines. Also there is an an inscription asking “for Christ [to be] favorable to us.”
The “mixing of Christian and pagan traditions” discovered near the basilica “shows a complex blurring of secular trade and administration … that warrants further investigation,” researchers said.
This was a research conducted between 2011 and 2016, there are plans to continue excavate the site, as “research at the site has the potential to clarify a range of topics, including the rise of one of Africa’s first complex polities, the development of Aksum’s trade connections, the conversion from polytheism to Christianity, and the eventual decline of the Empire of Aksum.”