EQST 007 Melka Kunture, Adadi Mariam and Tiya
Pick up is at 7.30 am, and we then head south-west on the Jimma road, before turning due south on to the Butajira Road. Melka Kunture lies near the Awash River Gorge and is one of the most important neolithic sites in Ethiopia. Hand axes and various other implements have been found here. There is a museum at the site.
About 5 km further on the Butajira Road, is the rock hewn church of Adadi Mariam, contemporaneous with those of Lalibela – in fact local tradition ascribes it to King Lalibela who is said to have had it built on his visit to Mount Zuqwala in 1106. Damaged during the wars with Ahmed Gragn in the 16th century, it fell into disuse and was only reopened in the time of Menelik II. It is today in regular use.
Our final stop today is at Tiya, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, where we can see the northernmost example of a peculiar type of engraved, standing stellae which stretch across parts of southern Ethiopia. These stellae are believed to have been erected between the 12th and 14th centuries and are almost certainly grave markers – recent excavations at Tiya have revealed the remains of young people of both sexes, aged between 18 – 30 and buried in foetal positions.
At some stage today we will take a picnic lunch, perhaps near the Awash River Gorge, and leave for the return journey to Addis Ababa mid afternoon.