CFEE Seminar: Ethiopia and its Islamic environment in the Middle Ages: The ERC project and its fieldwork in Bilet (Tigray)

Ethiopia and its Islamic environment in the Middle Ages: The ERC project and its fieldwork in Bilet (Tigray)


By Deresse Ayenachew (Debre Berhan University), Amélie Chekroun (CNRS, IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence), Bertrand Hirsch (Paris-1 Sorbonne University) and Julien Loiseau (Aix-Marseille University)


Date: Thursday November 29, 2-4 pm

Venue: Berhanou Abebe Library,  French Centre for Ethiopian Studies  (Jan Meda,



The project pursues two hypothesis: 1) that connexions never have ceased between Ethiopia and its environment that came under Islamic domination and have even increased from the 13th century onwards; 2) that mobility of women and men, free or enslaved, commercial exchange and the flow of books and stories back and forth, did participate in the Islamisation of the whole area in the same way as in the resiliency of Ethiopian christianity. The project aims at evidencing these connexions inside the Horn, through the study of local written sources and archaeological survey, as well as outside the Horn, through the study of Arabic sources and of all traces left by men and women that came from the Horn to the Middle East.

The ERC project HornEast (Horn & Crescent. Connections, Mobility and Exchange between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East in the Middle Ages: 2017-2022) aims at evidencing local and global connections between the Horn of Africa and its Islamic environment (from Yemen to Egypt and Palestine) in the Middle Ages (7th to 15th Century), for a better understanding of the Islamisation process in the whole area.

Fieldwork has begun in Bilet (Tigray) in March 2018, revealing a Muslim graveyard with several Arabic stelae dating back to the 10th-12th centuries CE, and the remains of an urban settlement that may have worked together at the same time. First findings and research hypothesis of the fieldwork will be presented during the workshop along with an overview of the project HornEast.


The Speakers:

Julien Loiseau (Aix-Marseille University): Connecting the history of the Horn of Africa in the Middle Ages: the ERC project HornEast

Bertrand Hirsch (Paris-1 Sorbonne University): In search of the Muslim stelae from Enderta: the way to Bilet

Amélie Chekroun (CNRS, IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence): Fieldwork mission in Bilet (March 2018): preliminary observations

Julien Loiseau (Aix-Marseille University): The Muslim stelae from Bilet: a preliminary assessment


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