Archaeologists Unearth 2,000-Year-Old Treasures in Grave of Ethiopian Sleeping Beauty

The woman is thought to have been well-loved.

The Ethiopian
The Ethiopian "Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Graeme Laidlaw, courtesy of the Headley Trust and the Tigray Trust.

A 2,000-year-old grave of a woman filled with treasures from the Roman Empire has been found in Northern Ethiopia. The British archaeologists who found the grave, have nicknamed the woman “sleeping beauty” because of the way her body had been positioned.

“She was curled up on her side, with her chin resting on her hand, wearing a beautiful bronze ring,” Louise Schofield, a former British Museum curator who oversaw the dig, told the Guardian. “She was buried gazing into an extraordinary Roman bronze mirror. She had next to her a beautiful and incredibly ornate bronze cosmetics spoon with a lump of kohl eyeliner.”

The grave is just one of 11 burial sites excavated during a six-week dig at the ancient city of Aksum, part of Africa’s Aksumite kingdom, which flourished between 100–940 AD and was at one time believed to have been ruled by legendary Biblical figure the Queen of Sheba.

“Ethiopia is a mysterious place steeped in legend, but nobody knows very much about it,” said Schofield. Aksum is also said to the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

The Queen of Sheba as depicted in the medieval manuscript Bellifortis.

The Queen of Sheba as depicted in the medieval manuscript Bellifortis.

The contents of “Sleeping Beauty’s” grave, which also include a clay jug, two intact Roman glass vessels, and an ornately beaded belt and necklace, both worn by the woman, are remarkably well-preserved because the grave was cut into a rock overhang. Schofield plans to analyze the jug to determine if she was given some kind of food or drink to accompany her on her journey to the afterlife.

The newly-uncovered artifacts will reportedly be given to a German-funded museum opening in October.

Edward Burne-Jones, <em>The Rose Bower</em> from the "Legend of Briar Rose." Collection of Buscot Park, Oxfordshire, England.

Edward Burne-Jones, The Rose Bower (1890) from the “Legend of Briar Rose.”
Collection of Buscot Park, Oxfordshire, England.

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