Capital of the ancient kingdom of Aksum, in the modern Tigray Province of Ethiopia, c. 600 km north of Addis Ababa. It flourished between the 1st and 8th centuries ad. The modern town occupies part of the site, which faces south over a fertile plain at the foot of a flat-topped hill, Mt Beta Giyorgis. The ancient city’s importance is attested by the many monuments scattered throughout the modern town, including huge stelae and throne bases, broken pillars, inscriptions and royal hypogea. The first extensive investigations were undertaken in 1906 by a German team under E. Littmann. During the 1960s and 1970s French, British and Italian teams carried out further excavations, led by Francis Anfray, Neville Chittick and Lanfranco Ricci, respectively.
From the 5th century bc the surrounding region was ruled by a local monarchy with a major centre of Yeha, less than 50 km north-east of Aksum, with close ties to the kingdom of Saba in southern Arabia. Elements of this strong southern Arabic influence survived in the culture of Aksum and its kingdom, which was founded in the 1st century ...