Entoto is Not Barara

Dear Editor,

Recent social media buzz claiming that the various ruins in and around Entoto are evidence of Barara is demonstrably false, contrary to true archaeological practice, and remain unfounded and disingenuous.

I have visited these sites on various occasions and can categorically state none of them fit the necessary criteria for being a legitimate candidate for identification with Barara. That these recent claims come at a politically sensitive time and from people who are not archaeologists should be carefully considered. One should be highly sceptical of conclusions based upon hope, imagination and uninformed speculation.

There are multiple reasons why the Entoto sites cannot be attributed to the medieval site of Barara.

Primarily, the architectural elements post date, by at least a century, the destruction of Barara during the religious wars of 1530. All of the structures on Entoto were built much after Barara was destroyed.

I am convinced that all elements of architecture on Entoto were actually destroyed before they were completed or were left abandoned. These in no way constitute significant heritage. Additionally, none of these indicate any longstanding indigenous, Ethiopian architectural elements or cultural material.

The cultural remains or materials left by a city that existed for over a century would also have been substantial both in terms of ceramic types and sheer quantities.

The fact that one can hardly find even single ceramic shards or other cultural material, let alone the necessary quantities around the Entoto sites, indicates that they were meagerly utilised during the brief periods they were under construction.

In addition, all ceramics or other cultural material found around Entoto indicate a period over a century after the destruction of Barara. No earlier cultural materials have been found.

One also needs to consider that the soil matrix of an occupational site is transformed over centuries and retain multiple signatures or evidence of utilisation. These include charcoal and other data indicative of fire, higher concentrations of phosphates, a mix of native soils with inclusions of sands, decayed mortar, constructional debris and cultural materials.

None of the soils around the sites on Entoto represents even marginal occupation to the degree necessary for claiming sites around Entoto to be Barara, let alone anything substantial. In fact, the soils around the Entoto sites are what we call, in archaeological terms, sterile or native soils with little transformation or archaeological data values.

There are also no names or traditions related to Entoto retained with any named occupation, let alone a city the size and duration of Barara.

Sites we are currently investigating – which I prefer not to reveal due to the political sensitiveness of the issues and to protect from looters or other forms of destruction once they are revealed – fit the criteria as candidates for Barara. Not only do they contain oral traditions and names related to Barara, but they also possess ample archaeological evidence for the lost city we are looking for, and they are where they would be expected to be in relation to trade, adequate agricultural space and geopolitical frameworks.

Barara has likewise been mentioned as a city of trade and commerce. Entoto is located atop a mountain ridge, quite inaccessible to large trade caravans. Additionally, the plains around current day Addis Abeba was a swampland, utterly uninhabitable in the medieval periods.

Even today, the fields around Addis Abeba are inadequate to feed a large population. The trade routes from the medieval periods traversed 20Km on either side of current day Addis Abeba. Evidence of these ancient pathways is still visible on Google Earth. None even approach Addis Abeba.

As an archaeologist who has worked for over a quarter of a century in the field, I can unequivocally state that the sites in and around Entoto and Addis Abeba do not fit even a single criterion for declaring any of them to be associated with the lost city of Barara. Declaring otherwise is not only wrong, but it is also dangerous and foolish.

Professional archaeologists wait for all the data to be compiled before declaring an unfounded conclusion. I have repeatedly urged those responsible for these fabrications to refrain from reporting these falsehoods as facts.

One cannot declare Entoto to be anything other than a few interesting architectural examples of little to no true archaeological value or significance. Entoto is not Barara. Let us put such unfounded claims to rest and allow the true professionals to do their jobs.

Samuel C. Walker
Professor of Archaeology
Researcher with Woldia University






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