Yeha

Yeha is another historic place adorned with a set of attractive rock-pillars.

Yeha is famous for its huge and remarkable temple. This temple is believed to date back to the 5th century before the birth of Christ. However, according to the 19th Century German scholar Heinrich Miiller, the temple is thought to date back to about seven or eight hundred years before the birth of Christ.

The imposing ruins of Yeha’s temple still stand, despite their no longer being a roof. It was a large pre-Christian temple consisting of a single oblong chamber. The area of the remains of the temple measure 18.5m by 15m. This temple is believed to be the oldest standing building in the country!

The town of Yeha is considered by archaeologists and historians to be the prime capital of the pre-Aksumite period. It holds many archaeological mysteries. The surrounding area is yet to be fully excavated and many mysteries remain to be discovered.

Yeha has been known to the outside world since early 16th century Portuguese explorers. The famous Portuguese traveler, Francisco Alvarez, described Yeha as ”a very large and handsome town, both for its height and the good workmanship of its walls.”

Constructed of huge stones without the use of mortar, it has surprisingly defied the pressures and wear-and-tear of natural forces for at least 25 centuries. Professor David Phillipson writes, ”The temple undoubtedly owes its good preservation to the fact that it was subsequently (perhaps about a thousand years after its initial construction) converted into a Christian church.” He adds, ”the outer faces, edges and corners are superbly dressed with great precision.”

Since the 16th century Yeha has been visited by many foreign travelers, perhaps the most notable being, Scottish traveler James Bruce in 1769 and the British traveler Henry Salt in the early 19th century. The Deutsche Aksum Expedition of 1906 sketched Yeha for their reports. Significant archaeological objects were unearthed in excavation works undertaken in the 1960s and the early 1970s to demonstrate the importance of this site. Historically, Yeha has served as an archaeologist’s paradise.

Beside the remarkable temple, a church dedicated to Abba Aftse also exists. Abba Aftse was one of the famous nine saints who came to Ethiopia in the 6th century from the east Roman Empire to teach the Gospel. These Christian monks found a number of important monasteries and churches in many parts of Tigrai.

The church, sharing the same compound with the temple, is rectangular in shape. One can see several engravings of ibex heads on the walls of the church that suggest the sacredness of the animal. Enda Abba Aftse is also one of the wealthiest churches in terms of treasures and manuscripts. There is a fine cross that, according to church officials, belonged to the founder of the church, Abba Aftse. There are also several beautifully decorated manuscripts. Another interesting relic is a block of stone bearing inscriptions in Sabean, the old language of South Arabia.

Yeha with its ancient temple and magnificent site is a mysterious place that beckons travelers, as only few can.

On the way to the town of Adwa, one may have a look at one of Africa’s greatest battlefields. On the 1st of March in the year 1896, Ethiopians scored a spectacular victory against a well-trained and equipped Italian army. Today, the victory of Adwa is symbolized by many as a victory for Black people of the entire world over aggression and domination.

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