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Ancient Abyssinia/Saba
Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2001

At least by 1,000BC Ethiopia, Eritrea and what is southern Yemen were part of a large empire known as the Sabean Kingdoms. The connections of Ethiopia and Arabia should not be surprising as the distance between the East African horn and Southern Arabia is minimal. In fact recent linguistic study indicates that the Semitic languages of Arabia and the Middle East may well be a branch of a larger Ethiopian language group.

It is also well known that this Eastern Horn-Arabian route was used for millennia by the earliest homonid migrants who later populated Asia. The people of Sabea were probably a mixture of East Africans and their Southern Arabian descendants who had long populated the region. Saba had a very matrifocal society with a host of female dieties. According to the Kebra Negast, a holy book of Ethiopia, it is said that Makedda herself created a dictate stating "only a woman can rule." Polyandry, the practice of taking more than one husband by a woman, and tracing one's kinship based upon matrilineal descent was common.

The earliest known Arabian temple was at Marib (in Southern Yemen), capital of Saba, and was called Mahram Bilqus, "precincts of the Queen of Saba." The Arabs called this woman, Bilqus or Balkis; in Ethiopia, Makedda (also Magda, Maqda and Makera), meaning "Greatness." Years later, the Jewish historian Josephus, referred to her as "Nikaulis, Queen of Ethiopia." She is the celebrated Queen of Sheba of the Bible who is described as "black and comely." Located in a strategic location, Saba flourished as a trading community in goods from Asia as well as Africa. Even coffee drinkers trace the original cup to Ethiopia's Kefa region. Pictured above are the ruins of Marib, built between the 1st and 2nd Millennium BC.

(Information Courtesy of Yemeni website and African Presence in Early Asia ed. by Ivan Van Sertima) MORE

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