2020 Fieldwork

Six weeks of archaeological fieldwork were completed in eastern Ethiopia, ending in early March, fortunately just before the COVID-19 shut down. This was focused on Harlaa with an emphasis upon exploring architecture and developing the community museum and heritage trail. A large stone building was investigated and three adjoining rooms excavated. These were very well-preserved and preliminary interpretation suggests that they were a kitchen and storage room with an in-situ hearth, with next to it a room with an industrial purpose, possibly for cloth production, with a grinding/processing installation and several pits inside it. This room was originally entered through a series of stone steps. The third room was a living room with a raised bed/sitting area. Radiocarbon dates are awaited, but the ceramics found indicate occupation between the 12 to 13th centuries AD, i.e. the highpoint of Harlaa.

This site, through the kindness of the land-owner, and with the co-operation of the Dire Dawa Culture and Tourism Office (DDCTO) and the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH), has now been permanently protected with a zinc roof and presented for the public. Interpretation boards will also be installed as soon as possible. The building forms one component of the Harlaa heritage trail which will also incorporate a mosque excavated in 2015, and start with a small community museum near the main Harar to Dire Dawa road. The objects for the museum have been collected from local villagers by the DDCTO and the local administration, and interpretation of these is again in progress. Besides the kind help of our Ethiopian partners at the DDCTO and ARCCH, represented by Mr Abraham Yaregal and Mr Temesgen Leta, we also benefited from the input of Mr Malik Saako Mahmud, Principal Curator at the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, and this provided a very worthwhile instance of inter-African and international partnership activity. 

1. Drone photo of the excavated building with, left to right, kitchen room, industrial facility room, living room (photo. T. Insoll)

2. Stone lamp from the industrial facility room (photo. T. Insoll)

3. The interior of the shelter built over the excavated building (photo. T. Insoll)

4. The exterior of the site shelter (photo. T. Insoll)

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