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Early Christian churches unearthed in Eritrea

In the Horn of Africa Christianity spread very early on, consolidating itself after the edict of Constantine who, in 313 AD, decriminalized Christian worship. An Italo-Eritrean mission has found the remains of two early Christian churches dating back to the second half of the fourth century. The discovery also aroused the interest of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology, which joined the group of universities already engaged in the research.

Early Christian churches unearthed in Eritrea
Credit: ANSA
The Italo-Eritrea archaeological mission has been at work since 2011 and has already brought to light the ancient port of Adulis in Eritrea on the shores of the Red Sea. An important maritime port of call given that this city connected the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea, comparable to the spices and silk routes. It disappeared at the end of the 7th century AD under the silt of a catastrophic flood caused by the collapse of a dam located in the mountains above the city, Adulis, like Pompeii, has preserved buildings and debris under the mud.

Early Christian churches unearthed in Eritrea
Credit: ANSA
The reconstruction of the two churches and other finds will be exhibited in November at the Castiglioni Museum in Varese. The excavations have brought to light numerous finds, including coins and objects made from turtle shell. "In this area you could look for another 30 years,"  said Marco Castiglioni, who runs the museum in Varese.

Early Christian churches unearthed in Eritrea
Credit: ANSA
In January and February a new mission is planned for the Italo-Eritrea team, led by brothers Alfredo and Angelo Castiglioni, thanks to whose donations the museum was created in Varese, and is made up of archaeologists from the Catholic University of Milan, the Oriental University of Naples, and is architects from the Politecnico di Milano who are in charge of restoring the monuments brought to light by excavations. The scientific head of the missions is Prof. Serena Massa from the Catholic University of Milan.

The exhibition at the Castiglioni Museum will open on November 17. The highlight will be the reconstruction of the two churches, inspired by what emerged from the excavations. Numerous other finds from the Horn of Africa will also be on display.

Source: ANSA [October 17, 2017]

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