Phallic-shaped Ethiopian monuments 1,000 years older than previously thought

Southern Ethiopia’s Gedeo Zone is home to many megalithic stelae that reach up to 6m in height, with an estimate of more than 10,000 across some 60 sites. Some resemble phalluses, others have faces or anthropomorphic designs, while some are undecorated.

Site of Sakaro Sodo. PHOTO: Andrew Duff.

One of these stelae sites is Sakaro Sodo, the subject of a new study led by Ashenafi Zena, published in the Journal of African Archaeology.

Previous research at Tuto Fela, further north, in the 1990s had proposed that the monoliths there date back to around AD 1100. New accelerator mass spectrometry dates from Sakaro Sodo suggest that the stelae there were being set up a thousand years earlier, in the 1st century AD.

Study of the obsidian at the site also found that most of it came from northern Kenya, 300km away, pointing to long-distance trade and exchange.