post Tiya

July 15th, 2008

Filed under: History Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 18:10

Paul Tanner (UK):

Tiya in southern Ethiopia is an archeological site, which is distinguished by 36 standing stones or stelae. They are marking a large, prehistoric burial complex of an ancient Ethiopian culture.

A word commonly used regarding Tiya (including in the UNESCO documentation itself) is “Enigmatic”. Despite its inscription as long ago as 1980 remarkably little is known about the c35 strangely carved standing stones situated in a 200 metre square site 85 kms outside Addis Ababa. Which group of people created them? What is the meaning of the carvings? When were they erected? All is vague.

Tiya Stones (source Flickr)

We were told that a number of bodies had been found which had been carbon dated at between the 12th and 14th centuries. All appeared to have been warriors killed in battle. The layout of the stones certainly gives the impression of a row of head stones and graves beyond them. Many are carved with what are clearly swords but other motifs are less clear – a suggestion for a commonly occurring “fountain-like” shape is that it is a “false banana” tree – a significant plant in the drier areas of Ethiopia, providing all year round flour and leaves for houses etc. One flat stone is carved with a figure but there are no others, no script and no recognisable religious symbols from either Christianity or Islam (the 2 main religions of the region across the relevant period).

If you have a spare day in Addis and transport (you might just about make it return in a day on public transport on the road to Butajira but I wouldn’t bank on it) it is worth taking in this WHS (there is also a nice early hominid site and excellent new museum a few kms earlier at Melka Kunture). But the “fame” of inscription appears to have had little effect in the small village of Tiya nor on the site itself which just has a hut with a couple of guards also no doubt guarding each other for the entrance fees (30 birr for foreigners)! The prospects all around are totally rural and the site itself is covered by long grass. There are no signs and no literature. And almost no visitors!



  1. This website,, shows how each of us can make a difference in our people’s lives, Ethiopians. Education and Helath care is our main emphasis. Read more about East African Village Outreach (EAVO) and get involved!

    Comment by Seifu Ibssa — 19. July 2008 @ 00:42

  2. Dear Seifu
    Thank you for your information. We usually support such projects like your’s. If you want us to publish about it, please send us an info text and some images via mail. Then we will put it in Lissan. We don’t recommend direct links being integrated in comments because we have a filter system that deletes such links to avoid Spam attacks.

    Comment by Lissan Magazine — 19. July 2008 @ 01:28

  3. Dear Lissan Editors,

    Yes, I can certainly send you some texts about our efforts and a few pictures along with some articles from a couple of magazines on how it all began. What is your email address? I couldn’t locate it on your website.


    Comment by Seifu Ibssa — 29. July 2008 @ 20:28

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