Italian Archaeologists on a Mission to Eritrea to Discover the “African Pompeii”


Mission Adulis in Eritrea unearth a seventh-century city

A team of Italian archaeologists excavated the ancient port city of the Axum Kingdom - Adulis
Astonishing discovery. A team of Italian archaeologists excavated the ancient port city of the Axum Kingdom – Adulis, practically in perfect conditions. (Photo Credit: ANSA)


A team of Italian archaeologists is bringing to light, from nothing and at the price of great labors, the legendary port of Adulis, Gem of the desert lost in the maze of time, where history and myth attract each other as sand dunes moved by the wind.

The city, located on the South West coast of the Eritrean Red Sea, is shrouded in mystery.

From the flourishing commercial capital of the Kingdom of Axum (considered by the prophet Mani, one of the four most powerful empires of the Earth) and exotic crossroads between the colors and civilizations of the Mediterranean, Africa, and Asia, from the 7th century A.D. nothing is known about it. The hypothesis of the natural cataclysm prevails among archaeologists, which is why it has earned the name of Pompeii of Africa.

The mission, directed by the Research Center on the Eastern Desert (Ce. RDO), is slowly exhuming by layers of mud, sand, and shrubs a city of forty hectares, entirely in stone and in practically perfect conditions.

Many of the implications and discoveries have already taken place, especially as evidence of the early Christianization of the Horn of Africa, but the discovery, in the last campaign of 2018, of a large Byzantine church, datable to the V-VI century A.D., is astonishing, and of the western gate of the city, where there was the legendary marble throne of Adukis, a relic sung for its extraordinary beauty and today lost.

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The findings were made possible thanks to a diligent collaboration between the Museums of Asmara and Massawa, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the flagship of Italian universities (Polytechnic of Milan, Catholic University, Eastern University of Naples and Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology, which will host in November an archaeological exhibition on the excavations currently present at the Castiglioni Museum in Varese), and the contribution of Piccini Group as the main private sponsor.

“We are only 1% of the work,” says Dr. Massa, a professor at the Department of Archaeology at the Catholic, “Adulis is a treasure in the continuous discovery and in such cases the funds are never enough. In 2010 the brothers Alfredo and Angelo Castiglioni found the excavation area by intuition, which looked like a simple desert with the naked eye. Now our dream is to create an archeological park to make this wonderful site known to all. We often worked in extreme conditions, but it’s a pride representing the excellence of one’s own country, and being able to share values and cultural aspects with the Eritrean people, historically very close to us.”

According to the hypothesis of Angelo Castiglioni, owner of the project and researcher of clear fame, it is very likely that the area where it rises Adulis is coinciding with the even more mythical Land of Punt, dating back to four thousand years ago and cited by the Egyptians for its splendor and its Wealth.

You keep digging. (* Software translation from Italian language)

Adulis city excavation
The ancient port city of Adulis. (Photo Credit: ANSA)