“The dig has become part of the social safety net that feeds the local farmers,” says D’Andrea, who notes the rural area where the archaeological site is located has no minerals or other natural resources from which to derive income.
“The archaeology is all they have.”
The farmers’ plight inspired D’Andrea to find a way to help improve the community’s economy, and she’s using the archaeological dig as the springboard.
Museum exhibit to generate regional income
For the past four years she has been working to establish a museum that will generate admissions revenue in the nearby town of Adigrat, and to develop an accompanying interpretive centre at the dig site. The ideas came out of a former SFU student's thesis. Stephanie Jones, who studied in the School of Resource and Envionrmental Management, made several recommendations for expanding development in the region.
D'Andrea says the exhibit takes advantage of a growing tourism trend in Ethiopia.
“Tourists can visit the museum in Adigrat, then get information about visiting the nearby interpretive centre at the site, where they will pay an admission fee to learn about various aspects of the dig,” she says.
This fall, the project comes to fruition with the opening of a museum exhibit in Adigrat that will house 138 artifacts dating from 1,600 BC to 700 AD. The artifacts include ceramic bowls and pottery fragments, stone beads (including carnelian), jewelry, copper-alloy implements such as awls and tweezers, stone tools, animal bones, and a large quern—a grinding stone to grind flour.
Exhibit an SFU collaboration
There is also a photographic display of rock art completed by SFU Archaeology Lab Manager Shannon Wood, who participated during her vacation time, and a painting of Queen Makeda (Queen of Sheba) painted by local Ethiopian artist Mulugeta Weldekidan.
To complete the project, D’Andrea called on SFU Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology curator Barbara Winter and SFU students Laurie Nixon-Darcus, Elizabeth Peterson, Habtamu Mekonnen, Hewan Ayana and Jaclyn McLeod for assistance. They designed the museum display cases, which were built by local Ethiopian carpenter Kibrom Gebre-Selassie, and also designed the trilingual information posters, which were printed on canvas by SFU Document Solutions.
Christie Pohl, a conservator with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, travelled to Adigrat to clean and repair the artifacts.
“She took six small boxes of broken glass shards and restored them into a beautiful glass pitcher marked with brown and green spiral designs,” says D’Andrea. “It’s about 2,000 years old. It’s a Roman pitcher because the Romans were important trading partners with ancient peoples of northern Ethiopia.”
Next: an interpretive centre
The next step is to develop a small interpretive centre on the archaeological site. Work on it has begun, and will be completed during next year’s dig.
Says D’Andrea, “With the participation of both farmers living near the archaeological site in Gulo Makeda and people in the town of Adigrat, we’re ensuring that both rural and urban stakeholders are preserving archaeological resources while also receiving economic benefits from their cultural heritage.”