Aksum, Maqurra, Alwa! Nobatia! Dongola!!
Nope, not magical words from some unknown Harry Potter spell. Cities. Kingdoms. Entire Civilizations. Gone. Put to the sword. Pretty much lost to history, and literally off the edges of the better known maps.
Until the rise of Islam, these were the names of vast areas in central Eastern Africa, from the south end of Egypt, down through Nubia, Kush, Ethiopia, Eritrea and into the Sudan and the outskirts of modern Somalia. At it’s height, the Aksum Empire controlled the southwest part of the Arabian peninsula (think Queen of Sheba) and the southern coast of what is present day Yemen.
They were not part of the Roman Empire, but they were Christian nations. Some fell quickly to the onslaught. Some lasted to 1415. Ethiopia is still a Christian/Jewish enclave, as are parts of the Sudan. And under constant violent pressure still. From Islam. For more than 1400 years now.
Buried Christian Empire Casts New Light on Early Islam
Archeologists are studying the ruins of a buried Christian empire in the highlands of Yemen. The sites have sparked a number of questions about the early history of Islam. Was there once a church in Mecca?
The commandment “Make yourself no graven image” has long been strictly followed in the Arab world. There are very few statues of the caliphs and ancient kings of the region. The pagan gods in the desert were usually worshipped in an “aniconic” way, that is, as beings without form.
Muhammad had a beard, but there are no portraits of him.
But now a narcissistic work of human self-portrayal has turned up in Yemen. It is a figure, chiseled in stone, which apparently stems from the era of the Prophet.
Paul Yule, an archeologist from the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, has studied the relief, which is 1.70 meters (5’7") tall, in Zafar, some 930 kilometers (581 miles) south of Mecca. It depicts a man with chains of jewelry, curls and spherical eyes. Yule dates the image to the time around 530 AD.
Yule has concluded that Zafar was the center of an Arab tribal confederation, a realm that was two million square kilometers (about 772,000 square miles) large and exerted its influence all the way to Mecca.
Even more astonishing is his conclusion that kings who invoked the Bible lived in the highland settlement. The “crowned man” depicted on the relief was also a Christian.
At the height of their empire, the king - the Negus of Aksum (love the title) - controlled the ocean and shoreline spice and silk routes from the Arabian Sea west of India right up to the borders of the Byzantine Roman Empire. Talk about your middle man.
Interestingly I was watching this Nat Geo video today:
The Truth Behind : the Lost Ark - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqOCOka9fXs&list=EL2CkmIpyPM_Y&index=4
It explains one theory indicating the Ark of the Covenant might have been taken to the lands you speak of sometime after 930 BC. Or perhaps three hundred years later. It also mentions there is no historical evidence for the biblical Queen of Sheba then goes on to talk about Ethiopia.
It does cover the then Jewish and later Christian outposts in the Arabian Peninsula. Worth a look for more history on the region.
Too bad they didn’t have a 2nd amendment or maybe they would have survived till modern times.
Rich is vying for the Daft Wullie comment of the day. Rich, in those days everyone was armed to the teeth.
Wes - I wonder if “Sheba” is the same place as “Saba”, since the people of Sheba were a Sabaen culture ... and I recall reading about a dig a while back out in the Arabian waste lands that found Sheba? Or was it just the gold mine?
I caught the Saba reference too. I think the Nat Geo people are just pointing out that there is no direct evidence for the particular Biblical Sheba. There still may have been one and there must have been a Queen or multiple Queens of Saba.
Well, it’s not like the Bible gives her a first name. She wasn’t IDed as “Raylene, the Queen of Sheba”.