Archaeologists excavating a site in Harlaa in Eastern Ethiopia have found evidence of a mythical “city of giants” which was a thriving center of commerce between the 10th and 15th centuries. Throughout modern history, residents of nearby areas believed the city might have been built and inhabited by giants due to the impossibly large size of the stone blocks which made up city walls and buildings. Researchers have found evidence that the city had well-established trade with Egypt, India and China, which could rewrite much of what we know of ancient Ethiopian history.
The site measures close to 1 square kilometer. So far, excavations have turned up a mosque built in the 12th century, Islamic burial sites with over 300 sets of remains, and scores of pottery from as far away as China and Madagascar. A small horde of glass beads has been found, a clear indication that this was once an economic center which traded with faraway lands.
Architecture found at the site bears resemblance to other known early sites in Africa, showing a previously unidentified link between early Islamic civilizations. The researchers believe that this indicates a higher level of interaction between these Islamic Golden Age civilizations.
The expedition was led by Professor Timothy Insoll from the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. According to Insoll, this discovery could shine light on a completely new chapter of the history of Eastern Africa:
This discovery revolutionizes our understanding of trade in an archaeologically neglected part of Ethiopia. The archaeological findings suggest this place was home to a very mixed community. Local people were extremely keen for us to solve mysteries. Farmers had been finding strange objects, including Chinese coins, as they were working on their land, and a legend began that the area was home to giants. We have obviously disproved that, but I’m not sure they fully believe us yet. Some people have said the bodies we have discovered are the children of giants!
Children of giants? Sure would be a lot more interesting than beads. Still, this find and other recent discoveries are showing that the nations of the world might have been far more interconnected far earlier than we think. Remember: all of this has happened before and will happen again.