The SOLAR lab’s research includes the Southern Red Sea Archaeological Histories (SRSAH) Project (pronounced sir-saw). An international collaborative research effort involving Ethiopian, American, Canadian, and Italian students and scholars, SRSAH investigates the archaeology and ancient history of the Horn of Africa. In 2009, SRSAH began archaeological survey (exploration) of the region surrounding the world-renowned archaeological site of Yeha (20 km northeast of Adwa in Tigray Province, Ethiopia). The archaeological survey component of SRSAH was funded from 2013-2017 by a grant from NASA for a comparative archaeological survey (exploration) and satellite imagery analysis-based study of ancient water histories of northern Ethiopia and the Sultanate of Oman. The second major component of SRSAH involves excavations of the ancient Aksumite town of Beta Samati, which was funded in summer 2015 by the Archaeological Institute of America and in summer 2016 by the National Geographic Society. Our investigations are conducted with the permission, collaboration, and support of the Republic of Ethiopia – Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) and the Tigrai Culture and Tourism Bureau.

The ancient Aksumite town of Beta Samati (ca. 750 BC – AD 650) was first identified in 2009 after inquiries with local residents led the SRSAH team to investigate a prominent hill (tell) near the modern village of Edaga Rube. We immediately recognized the archaeological importance of this 20 hectare spread of ceramics and remnants of stone architecture. In summer 2011, a 2 by 6 meter test trench confirmed that an intricate complex of stone walls was preserved immediately below the plow-zone. In summer 2012 this trench, designated Area A, was expanded to 2 by 15 meters and in another location designated Area B (where local farmers reported finding monumental, carefully masoned blocks of sandstone) another 2 by 15 meter trench was excavated. Both these areas have yielded vast new insights on the nature and history of this important settlement. In 2015, Area A and Area B were both expanded to cover 10 by 10 meters. In 2016, Area B was further expanded to revealed a basilica first constructed as early as the 4th century AD. Additional details are published in the December 2019 issue of the journal Antiquity.