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Foundations of an African civilisation; Aksum & the northern Horn, 1000 BC-1300 AD.


Foundations of an African civilisation; Aksum & the northern Horn, 1000 BC-1300 AD.

Phillipson, David W.

James Currey Publishers


293 pages



Eastern Africa series


This is a survey of little-known but major civilization that flourished in what is now Ethiopia and Eritrea in the first millennium BCE: Aksum. It is based on a wide range of sources, from archaeological and linguistic to oral and written and argues for the wide spread of literacy in the communities of the African Horn at the time that gave rise to a powerful civilization that eventually provided the foundation for some of the world's oldest Christian communities. A short introduction describes pre-Aksumite societies of the Horn. Then, Aksumite civilization is presented via a series of chapters, each focusing on a specific cultural aspect. Linguistic analysis is followed by an overview of written sources, a brief political history, the institution of kingship, the role of religion in Aksumite society, food production and urban development, burial practices and technology. Causes for the eventual decline of Aksum are briefly treated, and a short concluding chapter describes the first post-Aksumite dynasties and political units. This is an important cross-disciplinary work that brings into focus the international importance of this major political unit. Written in an accessible language, it provides plenty of references for further research and does not shy away from current research controversies. Distributed in the US by Boydell & Brewer.

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Publication:Reference & Research Book News
Article Type:Book review
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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