A network of museums in Addis Ababa and elsewhere explores Ethiopia’s long and fascinating history, from the first humans to walk the earth many million of years ago, to the imperial era that ran from around 1000 BC into the 1970s.
- The most popular display in Addis Ababa’s National Museum of Ethiopia is the superb palaeontological hall. This incorporates some of the world’s most ancient hominid fossils, including the 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis skull known as Lucy, thereby substantiating Ethiopia’s probable status as the Cradle of Humankind.
- The nearby Institute of Ethiopian Studies’ Ethnographic Museum focusses on the country’s varied mosaic of cultures. It displays traditional artefacts relating to the Christian and other monotheistic cultures of the highlands, but also dedicates plenty of space to the fascinating animist cultural groups of South Omo, as well as the Afar of the eastern deserts. Highlights include extensive and attractively displayed collections of traditional musical instruments and of religious art dating back to the Middle Ages.
- Centrally located on Meskel Square, the Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum documents the atrocities committed under the Derg regime of 1975-87.
- Other subject-specific installations in the capital include the Addis Ababa Museum, National Postal Museum and Zoological Natural History Museum, and the museums associated with St George’s Cathedral, Selassie Cathedral and Entoto Maryam Church.
- The Aksum Archaeological Museum, in the town of the same name, displays a wealth of ancient artefacts uncovered in the vicinity. These include Aksumite coins and engraved tablets from the 3rd century AD, and glasses imported from Egypt.
- Other worthwhile museums can be found in Harar, Lalibela and Konso. Illuminated manuscripts, gold crosses, imperial crowns and other antiquities dating back to the first millennium AD are stowed away at museums or treasure houses in many ancient monasteries and rock-hewn churches countrywide.