Ancient History

Earlier History

Ethiopia has seen human habitation for longer than almost anywhere else in the world, possibly being the location where humans evolved. Evidence of Naqadan contacts includes obsidian from Ethiopia. The first records of Ethiopia proper come from Egyptian traders from about 3000 BC, who refer to lands south of Nubia or Cush as Punt and Yam. The Ancient Egyptians were in possession of myrrh (found in Punt) as early as the first or second dynasties, which Richard Pankhurst interprets to indicate trade between the two countries extant from the beginning of Ancient Egypt’s beginnings. J.H Breasted posited that this early trade relationship could have been realized through overland trade down the Nile and its tributaries. The Greek historian and geographer Agatharchides had documented ship faring among the early Egyptians “During the prosperous period of the Old Kingdom, between the 30th and 25th centuries B.C., the river routes were kept in order, and Egyptian ships sailed the Red Sea as far as the myrrh country.

Ancient Ethiopia

Around 800 BC the kingdom of Damot arose in Ethiopia, centering on Yeha thought to be the first capital in Ethiopia. The kingdom seems to have had very close relations with the Yemenite Sabaean kingdom. The only known inscriptions of Damot kings include reference to the contemporaneous ruling king of the Sabaean kingdom at the time. The Damot kingdom developed irrigation schemes, used plows, grew millet, and even made iron tools and weapons. Remains of a large stone temple dating to about 500 BC still survive at Yeha, near Axum. The transition from Damot to the Kingdom of Aksum remains unclear.

Reference to Ethiopians in ancient Greece however is obviously either to Africans in general or the Cushites of Northern Sudan in particular. It is interesting to note that Greek historians viewed Ethiopia as a sacred people that was mostly loved by the gods. Memnon was regarded as one of the noblest heroes that participated in the Trojan war and as the handsomest man of his time, bested in battle only by Achilles. According to a version of the myth, the Gods admired him so much that after his death from the sword of Achilles they decided to grant him immortality. According to Greek Mythology Ethiopians acquired their dark color when the sun came once very close to their country.