Item Details

First Footsteps in the Archaeology of Harar, Ethiopia

Issue: Vol 4 No. 2 (2017)

Journal: Journal of Islamic Archaeology

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/jia.35273


The Islamic archaeology of Ethiopia has been little investigated which is an omission of consequence, for this archaeology is both rich and varied, and historical records indicate that contacts were maintained between the earliest Muslim communities and Ethiopia. A key centre of Islam and Islamization was the walled city of Harar in the eastern highlands which was also a hub for trade networks connecting the Ethiopian interior with the Red Sea coast. The origins of the city are unclear and the results of the first archaeological test excavations completed in four areas of the city, Hamburti, the Amir Nur Shrine, Shagnila Toya, and the Amir’s Palace, are described. Conflicting traditions place the beginnings of Harar between the late 7th and 16th centuries AD. Two radiocarbon dates obtained from the excavations appear to indicate that Harar was a late, possibly 16th century foundation. The results from Harar are contextualized within their wider region with particular reference to the site of Harlaa, 35km northwest of Harar, where occupation has been dated to the 12th-13th centuries AD. Although earlier, the locally made ceramics assemblage from Harlaa shares some generic similarities with the pottery from Harar suggesting, potentially, that the Harari are the descendants of the legendary Harla, the occupants of Harlaa and other sites in the region.

Author: Timothy Insoll

View Full Text

References :

Abdallah, I.

2004. “Chronology of the City.” In Harar: A Muslim City of Ethiopia, edited by P. Revault and S. Santelli, 15–21. Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose.

Ahmed, A. M.

1990. “A Survey of the Harar Djugel (Wall) and its Gates.” Journal of Ethiopian Studies 23: 321–334.

Ahmed, H.

1992. “The historiography of Islam in Ethiopia.” Journal of Islamic Studies 3: 15–46.

Azaïs, R. P. and Chambard, R.

1931. Cinq années de recherches archéologiques en Ethiopie. Paris: Paul Geuthner.

Basset, R.

1914. “Chronologie des Rois de Harar.” Journal Asiatique 3: 245–258.

Bauden, F.

2011. “Inscriptions Arabes d’Éthiopie.” Annales Islamologiques 45: 285–306.

Bosc-Tiessé, C., M.-L. Derat, L. Bruxelles, F-X. Fauvelle, Y. Gleize and R. Mensan.

2014. “The Lalibela Rock Hewn Site and its landscape (Ethiopia): An archaeological analysis.” Journal of African Archaeology 12: 141–164.

Braukämper, U.

2004. Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia. Munster: Lit Verlag.

Bridgman, R.

2009. “From the Tihamah Plain to Thailand and beyond: Preliminary analysis of selected ceramics from Quseir al-Qadim.” In Connected Hinterlands, edited by L. Blue, J. Cooper, R. Thomas., and J. Whitewright, 133–140. BAR S2052. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Burton, R. F.

1894a (1987). First Footsteps in East Africa or, An Exploration of Harar Volume 2. New York: Dover Publications.

1894b (1987). First Footsteps in East Africa or, An Exploration of Harar Volume 1. New York: Dover Publications.

Caulk, R. A.

1977. “Harär town and its neighbours in the nineteenth century.” Journal of African History 18: 369–386.

Cerulli, E.

1971. L’Islam Di Ieri e Di Oggi. Rome: Istituto per l’Oriente.

1988. “Ethiopia’s relations with the Muslim world.” In General History of Africa III, edited by M. El Fasi, 575–585. Paris: UNESCO.

Chekroun, A., F-X. Fauvelle-Aymar, B. Hirsch, D. Ayenachew, H. Zeleke, O. Onezime and
A. Shewangizaw.

2011. “Les Harla: Archéologie de mémoire des géants d’Ethiopie.” In Espaces Musulmans de la Corne de l’Afrique au Moyen Âge, edited by F-X. Fauvelle-Aymar and B. Hirsch, 75–102. Paris: De Boccard.

Chiari, G. P.

2015. A Comprehensive Guide to Harar and Surroundings. Addis Ababa: Arada Books.

CIRPS and Harari People National Regional State.

2003. Cultural Heritage of Harar: Mosques, Islamic Holy Graves, and Traditional Harari Houses.
A Comprehensive Map
. Rome: University of Rome.

Curle, A. T.

1937. “The ruined towns of Somaliland.” Antiquity 11: 315–327.

Drewes, A.

1983. “The library of Muhammad b. Ali b. Abd al-Sakur, Sultan of Harar.” In Arabian and Islamic Studies, edited by R. Bidwell and G. R. Smith, 68–79. London: Longman.

Erlich, H.

1994. Ethiopia and the Middle East. London: Lynne Riener.

Fauvelle-Aymar, F-X., L. Bruxelles, R. Mensan, C. Borc-Tiessé, M.-L. Derat and E. Fritsch.

2010. “Rock-cut stratigraphy: Sequencing the Lalibela Churches.” Antiquity 84: 1135–1150.

Fauvelle-Aymar, F-X., and B. Hirsch.

2010. “Muslim historical spaces in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa: A reassessment.” Northeast African Studies 11: 25–53.

2011. “En Guide d’Introduction. Sur les Traces de l’Islam Ancien en Ethiopie et dans la Corne de l’Afrique.” In Espaces Musulmans de la Corne de l’Afrique au Moyen Âge, edited by F-X. Fauvelle-Aymar and B. Hirsch, 11–26. Paris: De Boccard.

Finneran, N.

2007. The Archaeology of Ethiopia. Abingdon: Routledge.

2009. “Built by Angels? Towards a buildings archaeology context for the rock-hewn Medieval churches of Ethiopia.” World Archaeology 41: 415–429.

2012. “Lalibela in its landscape: Archaeological survey at Lalibela, Lasta, Ethiopia, April to May 2009.” Azania 47: 81–98.

Foucher, E.

1994. “The cult of Muslim Saints in Harar: Religious dimension.” In Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Volume 2, edited by B. Zewde, R. Pankhurst, and T. Beyene, 71–83. Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies.

González-Ruibal, A., J. de Torres and M.A.F. Fernández.

2015. Report on an Archaeological Trip to Somaliland. June 2015. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas.

González-Ruibal, A., J. de Torres, A. F. Franco, M. A. Ali, A. M. Shabelle, C. M. Barrio and K. A. Aideed.

2017. “Exploring long distance trade in Somaliland (AD 1000-1900): Preliminary results from the 2015-2016 field seasons.” Azania 52: 135–172.

Halevi, L.

2007. Muhammad’s Grave: Death Rites and the Making of Islamic Society. New York: Columbia University.

Harari People’s Regional State.

2016. Harari. Addis Ababa: Haimanot Eshetu Film Production.

Hecht, E.-D.

1982. “The City of Harar and the Traditional Harar House.” Journal of Ethiopian Studies 15: 56–78.

1987. “Harar and Lamu—A comparison of two East African Muslim societies.” Transafrican Journal of History 16: 1–23.

Horton, M.

1994. “East Africa.” In The Mosque, edited by M. Frishman and H-U. Khan, 194–207. London: Thames and Hudson.

Huntingford, G.W.B.

1989. The Historical Geography of Ethiopia. London: The British Academy.

Insoll, T.

1999. The Archaeology of Islam. Oxford: Blackwell.

2003. The Archaeology of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Insoll, T., H. Tesfaye and M. S. Mahmoud.

2014. “Archaeological survey and test excavations, Harari Regional State, Ethiopia, July-August 2014: A preliminary fieldwork report.” Nyame Akuma 82: 100–109.

Insoll, T., R. MacLean and B. Engda.

2016. “Archaeological survey and test excavations, Harlaa, Dire Dawa, and Sofi, Harari Regional State, Ethiopia: A preliminary fieldwork report.” Nyame Akuma 85: 23–32.

Joussaume, H. and R. Joussaume.

1972. “Anciennes Villes dans le Tchercher.” Annales d’Éthiopie 9: 21–44.

Kaplan, S.

2004. “Themes and methods in the study of conversion in Ethiopia: A review essay.” Journal of Religion in Africa 34: 373–392.

Kapteijns, L.

2000. “Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.” In The History of Islam in Africa, edited by N. Levtzion and R. L. Pouwels, 227–250. Oxford: James Currey.

Kifleyesus, A.

2006. Tradition and Transformation: The Argobba of Ethiopia. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Lapidus, I. M.

1988. A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Loimeier, R.

2013. Muslim Societies in Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Munro-Hay, S.

1991. Aksum: An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Østebø, T.

2012. Localising Salafism: Religious Change among Oromo Muslims in Bale, Ethiopia. Leiden: Brill.

Pankhurst, R.

1985. History of Ethiopian Towns from the Middle Ages to the Early Nineteenth Century. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag.

Phillipson, D.

2000. Archaeology at Aksum 1992–1997. London: Society of Antiquaries.

2004. “The Aksumite Roots of Medieval Ethiopia. Azania 29: 77–89.

2009. Ancient Churches of Ethiopia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Power, T.

2012. The Red Sea from Byzantium to the Caliphate. AD 500–1000. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.

Santelli, S.

2008. “Harar: The fourth holy city of Islam.” In The City in the Islamic World, Volume 1, edited by S. K. Jayyusi, 625–641. Leiden: Brill.

Schneider, M.

1969. Stèles Funéraires de la Région de Harar et Dahlak (Éthiopie).” Revue des Études Islamiques 37: 339–343.

Stenhouse, P., trans.

2003. Futuh al-Habasa. Hollywood, CA: Tsehai.

Stewart, R. B. and A. Getachew.

1962. “Investigations of the nature of injera.” Economic Botany 16: 127–130.

Tesfaye, H.

2011. Short Descriptions of Archaeological Sites in and around Harar. Unpublished Report. ARCCH, Addis Ababa.

Trimingham, J. S.

1952. Islam in Ethiopia. London: Oxford University Press.

Vantini, G.

1975. Oriental Sources Concerning Nubia. Warsaw: Polish Academy of Sciences.

Wagner, E.

1973. “Eine Liste der Heiligen von Harar.” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 123: 269–292.

Waldron, S.R.

1978. “Harar: The Muslim city in Ethiopia.” In Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Ethiopian Studies, edited by R. L. Hess, 239–257. Chicago: University of Illinois at Chicago Circle.

Wilding, R.

1976. “Harari domestic architecture.” Art and Archaeology Research Papers 9: 31–37.

1977. “The desert trade of eastern Ethiopia.” In Proceedings of the 8th Panafrican Congress, edited by R. E. Leakey and B. A. Ogot, 379–380. Nairobi: Louis Leakey Institute.

Zekaria, A.

1979. The Mosques of Harar. Unpublished Dissertation. Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University.

1991. “Harari coins: A preliminary survey.” Journal of Ethiopian Studies 24: 23–46.