The SRSAH Project (Michael J. Harrower - Principal Investigator)

An international collaborative research program involving Ethiopian, American, Canadian, and Italian students and scholars, the SRSAH Project (pronounced sir-saw) investigates the archaeology and ancient history of the Horn of Africa and Southwest Arabia. In 2009, SRSAH began archaeological survey (exploration) of the region surrounding the world-renowned archaeological site of Yeha (20 km northeast of Adwa in Tigray Province, Ethiopia). The archaeological survey component of SRSAH was funded from 2013 to 2016 by a grant from NASA (https://www.nasa.gov/) for a comparative archaeological survey and satellite imagery analysis-based study of ancient water histories of northern Ethiopia and the Sultanate of Oman. The second major component of SRSAH involves excavations of the ancient Aksumite town of Beta Samati, which was funded in summer 2015 by the Archaeological Institute of America (https://www.archaeological.org/) and in summer 2016 by the National Geographic Society (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/). Our investigations are conducted with the permission, collaboration, and support of the Republic of Ethiopia - Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) and the Tigrai Tourism and Culture Bureau.

Discovery and Excavation of Beta Samati

The ancient Aksumite town of Beta Samati (ca. 770 BC to AD 650) was first identified in 2009 after inquiries with local residents led the SRSAH team to investigate a prominent hill near the village of Edaga Rabu. We immediately recognized the archaeological importance of this 20 hectare spread of ceramics and remnants of stone architecture. In summer 2011 a 2x6m test trench confirmed that an intricate complex of stone walls was preserved immediately below the ground surface. In summer 2012 this trench, designated Area A, was expanded to 2x15 meters and in another location designated Area B (where local farmers reported finding monumental, carefully masoned blocks of sandstone) another 2x15 meter trench was excavated. Both these areas have yielded important new insights on the nature and history of this important settlement. In 2015 Area A and Area B were both expanded to cover 10x10 meters. In 2016 Area B revealed the complete extent of a basilica occupied as early as approximaltely AD 330. Thus far we have six radiocarbon assays from Beta Samati that date the lower layers of the site to the Pre-Aksumite period (ca. early 8th century BC) and the upper layers of the site to the Late Aksumite period (ca. 7th century AD). Learn More >>