What is it about?

This paper reports the results of an archaeological survey and test excavation conducted in one of the ancient megalithic stele sites in south Ethiopia, Sakaro Sodo. The Sakaro Sodo stele site is situated in Gedeo zone, which is known to have the largest number and highest concentration of megalithic stele monuments in Africa, with an estimate of more than 10,000 stelae in sixty or more sites. We report here new AMS dates suggesting that stelae were being emplaced about 2000 BP. Additionally, we report preliminary findings from characterizing the geochemical properties of obsidian artifacts recovered from stele sites, and stone used to make stelae.

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Why is it important?

Southern Ethiopia is one of the few places in the world where people still practice stelae construction and actively engage with the constructed landscape. The coexistence of prehistoric and living stelae tradition makes south Ethiopia an interesting region for archaeological and ethnographic studies. Understanding the origin and development of megalithic stele tradition and past regional exchange networks in the region is key to developing a regional chronology and reconstructing patterns of social interaction of early food-producing societies in Ethiopia and the Horn.


The Gedeo zone is known to have diverse forms of standing stones ranging from simple geometric monoliths to well-dressed figurative phallic and anthropomorphic stelae. Stelae in the region vary in construction time, size, function, engraved signs, arrangement in the landscape, and the scale of social energy investment for their construction. The new dates we report here for the oldest stelae construction in Gedeo appear to coincide with the arrival of domesticated animals in the region, and further dates and finds will provide invaluable data to develop a regional chronology of early food-producing societies in the region.

Dr. Ashenafi Zena
Washington State University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: New Dates for Megalithic Stele Monuments of Gedeo, South Ethiopia, Journal of African Archaeology, November 2021, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/21915784-bja10006.
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