Wednesday 17 February 2016 - Temples, Tombs and Treasures: in search of the Queen of Sheba - Louise Schofield

It was the Queen of Sheba that first drew Louise Schofield - an archaeologist and former curator at the British Museum - to the Gheralta plateau in northern Ethiopia. She'd heard tell of a 20-foot stone stele carved with an inscription and a symbol often linked to the biblical queen: a sun and crescent moon.

"The story of the Queen of Sheba has a central place in the heart of all Ethiopians, so I became interested in the story myself," she recalls (Sheba is thought to be located in parts of Ethiopia). It was this initial visit that ultimately led her to discover the 2,000-year-old remains of a character she fondly refers to as "sleeping beauty."

The grave was discovered at the stone stele, in an area that was once part of the ancient kingdom of Aksum, which today encompasses Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Inside, Schofield's team found the skeleton of a woman posed in a resting position, with her chin laid gently on one hand. A Roman-era bronze mirror was placed before her face. The corpse was surrounded with glass vessels (to catch the tears of the dead), as well as a bronze cosmetics spoon and a lump of kohl eyeliner. "She must have been very wealthy, and probably well-loved to be placed in this position, and judging by all the items of finery around her," surmised Schofield.

A bone expert wasn't able to ascertain her age at the time of death because the pelvis - which usually provides a close approximation - had been consumed by termites. Schofield hopes that analysis of the teeth will provide some answers. "There was something very personal about the way she was lying," Schofield says. The remains were also found surrounded by clay containers that likely contained food or drink left for her to use in the afterlife.

The dig also uncovered several other graves, all of which had several bodies buried beneath. In some, she found the remains of large warriors clad who each wore an iron bangle. 
The unusual find suggests trade between Rome and Aksum started at least 200 years earlier than previously believed.
(report from CNN)

about our lecturer:
Louise Schofield was curator of Greek Bronze Age and Geometric Antiquities in the British Museum from 1987 until 2000. Today she writes, lectures and runs international archaeological projects, mainly in south-eastern Turkey, Greece, Albania and Ethiopia. She is the author of The Mycenaeans, co-published by the Getty Museum and the British Museum in March 2007.

Louise is Director of the Tigray Trust,a British registered charity that was set up some three years ago by a group of London-based friends.
Her first archaeological, conservation and development project, in 2007-2009, (under the auspices of the Eyesus Hintsa Trust) transformed a barren prehistoric river valley in Tigray into an archaeological and environmental park.