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Yeha:Tigray. Unveiling the Ancient Marvels of Tigray’s Civilization

Mekelle: 1 December 2023 (Tigray Herald)

By Yerga Yaecobe

Yeha:Tigray. Unveiling the Ancient Marvels of Tigray’s Civilization

Submitted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Ethiopia, the Yeha site in Tigray, Ethiopia, stands as a testament to the cradle of African civilization. This cultural gem, nestled 53 km west of the World Heritage Site of Aksum, reveals a rich history dating back to the first millennium BC.

Sacred Grounds and Monuments:
Yeha boasts two monumental structures—the Great Temple of Yeha and the Grat Be’al Geubri Palace. The Great Temple, dating back to the 7th century BC, showcases exceptional dry masonry techniques and intricate construction. Converted into a monastery in the 6th century AD, it symbolizes Ethiopia’s religious and cultural identity.

The Grat Be’al Geubri Palace, an 8th-century BC marvel, stands as East Africa’s largest known timber-framed building. With its axial symmetry and monolithic pillars, this ancient palace offers a glimpse into the architectural traditions shaping the Northern Horn.

Rock-Cut Tombs and Archaeological Significance:
Yeha’s archaeological treasures include the Da’ero Mikael rock tombs and Abiy Addi rock-cut tombs dating to the first millennium BC. These vertical shaft tombs reveal a sophisticated society through their contents—pottery, tools, and seals, attesting to the cultural and artistic sophistication of the time.

UNESCO Recognition:
The Yeha site is currently on the Tentative Lists of States Parties, submitted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Ethiopia to UNESCO. This recognition underscores its outstanding universal values, tracing the earliest evidence of complex culture in the Northern Horn and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Justification for World Heritage Status:
Yeha’s nomination for World Heritage status is grounded in four key criteria: (i) Original and artistic craftsmanship, (ii) Cultural exchanges with the Near East, (iii) Testimony to highly centralized complex society, and (iv) Illustration of significant cultural development.

Integrity and Authenticity:
Despite restoration measures, Yeha’s integrity remains intact, preserving attributes essential to understanding its historical significance. The site’s authenticity is underscored by scientific analyses of building materials and the preservation of traditional Tigriyian vernacular buildings.

Comparisons with Global Heritage Sites:
Yeha’s uniqueness is highlighted through comparisons with global heritage sites, such as the Archaeological Site of Marib in Yemen and the archaeological area of Agrigento in Sicily. The distinctiveness of Yeha lies in its monumental structures, cultural exchanges, and the emergence of complex societies in the Northern Horn.

As Yeha beckons towards inclusion on the World Heritage List, it stands as a living testament to the roots of African civilization, inviting future archaeological endeavors to unravel its rich history’s

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