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A few hundred pieces of animal bones and teeth were collected from agricultural land around Gännätä Maryam, most of them highly fragmented. They represent primarily domestic animals of species still kept in the Ethiopian Highlands, namely chickens, sheep/goats and cattle. Signs of butchery, charring and breakage suggest that at least some of the animals of all three types had been used for consumption. The few bones not compatible with these domestic species represent rodents (probably commensal), possibly a fowl species such as francolin, and perhaps an unidentified small mammal.

The fragmentary nature of most of the items recovered precludes any statistical analysis of species, sex, age, condition and processing, although it is clear that chicken and sheep/goat fragments far outnumber those of cattle.

No animal remains have yet been found in the cemetery excavations at Gännätä Maryam or during fieldwalking at the other project sites.


Animals are depicted in wall paintings in many Ethiopian churches, and the sites being investigated in this project are no exception. Both wild animals and domestic livestock appear either alone or in association with specific biblical, legendary or historical religious figures for their religious and sometimes political significance. Our research includes identifying the animals and their roles in the narratives represented.

The friezes of bas-reliefs carved around the walls of Wašša Mika’el church comprise hunting and herding scenes. Here again we see both wild and domestic animals associated with human figures, but their significance is less apparent and they are not always readily identifiable. The wild fauna represented includes species such as elephant and giraffe that may never have occurred here on the steep-sided Wadla plateau at an elevation of over 3,000 m.

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