Alebachew Birru

Alebachew Birru

I Tatti/Getty Foundation Fellow
The Shay Culture: Tumuli of traditional-religious people in Ethiopia and their artefactual relationship with the Mediterranean world (10th-16th c.)
2022-2023 (January-June)
Birru Alebachew


Alebachew Belay Birru is Assistant Professor of Archaeology and Heritage Studies in the Department of History and Heritage Management at Debre Berhan University, Ethiopia. He has completed his Ph.D. dissertation, entitled Megaliths, Landscape and Society in the Central Highland of Ethiopia: An Archaeological Research, at the University of Toulouse, France in September 2020. He has been part of different archaeological excavation missions in Ethiopia and in France. Currently, he is researching medieval megalithic and church archaeological sites in the Central Highlands of Ethiopia. He made a series of presentations and published articles on the subject. He is also an associate researcher at the French Centre for Ethiopian studies.


Project Summary

The recent appearance of imported beads in medieval megalithic, Christian, and Islamic archaeological sites in Ethiopia urges the present researcher to investigate Ethiopia’s medieval trading networks with the Mediterranean world. Comparatively, there are reports on the material networks from the Asian world during the ancient periods. There are also historical references that imply the shift of the trade routes northward to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean world during the middle ages. A considerable number of reports were also published on the grave goods including beads from ancient Nubian sites in Sudan, and Egypt. However, not much has been done to cross-examine the infiltration of these goods further south into Ethiopia. Thus, this project aims to understand the circulation of beads as one of the major commodities in the Mediterranean world during the medieval period and its infiltration into the Shay Culture area in the Central Highlands of Ethiopia, and other medieval archaeological sites in Ethiopia. In this regard, the researcher will investigate existing sources on the subject and converse with experts in the field. Meanwhile, the researcher will make use of the bead collections in Ethiopia for comparative investigation with collections of similar types within the project framework. This will ultimately help to throw light on the extent of medieval bead trade networks in the Afro-Mediterranean world during the medieval period.