Sabean inscriptions found in the site suggest how old Yeha is as a place of organized settlement. Although its history seems to be eclipsed by Aksumite history, Yeha is the grandfather of Ethiopian history. Certainly, Yeha predates Aksum, although no-one is sure whether the latter is a more sophisticated continuation of the former.
Located 58 kms north-east of Aksum, Yeha was the center of the great Da’amat Kingdom – a pre-Aksumite civilization that is said to have sprung out from Southern Arabia. Yeha is perhaps an outcome of the migration from South Arabia that took place before 1000 BC. The influence of the immigrants on Yeha was comprehensive; they introduced agriculture, religion, architecture, language, among other things. No evidence traces the continuation of this ancient civilization beyond 400 BC, suggesting that it had existed only from 800 BC to 400 BC.
Yeha Temple
One of the most outstanding remains of this ancient civilization is the still-standing temple at Yeha. Dedicated to the sun and moon gods, the temple is believed to be built 600-800 years before the birth of Christ. Although it is roofless and windowless, the temple at Yeha is the oldest extant structure in Africa. This extraordinary building portrays the outstanding architectural advancement of the time. The stones used are enormous in dimension as well as weight. The building is about 19 m long, 15 m wide and 12 m high. The building meets all measures of engineering perfection: perfect right angles, straight lines, symmetry, fineness and evenness of the stone carving. It is perhaps hard to believe that such an ancient edifice built with just layers of unmortared stones could withstand the impact of natural adversities for more than two-and-a-half millennia. The million-dollar question is, “How could such a superior engineering excellence vanish without being relayed to subsequent generations?”
Yeha has been in the itinerary of many famous travelers. Perhaps the 16th century Portuguese traveler Francisco Alvares was the first to visit Yeha. The Scottish traveler James Bruce and the British explorer Henry Salt visited it in the 18th and 19th century respectively. Theodore Bent also discovered inscriptions there in 1893. Archaeologists frequented Yeha since the Deutsche Aksum-Expedition of 1906 pioneered more scientific methods of excavation.

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