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Photo provided by Michael Novins
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.


kedrela mohammed (Ethiopia):
it was nice to be there.all the stone and its message is amasing. the site is vere closer to the main road. eventhough it is on of among the world heritage, it's future existance is questionable. the is no facilities for turists or visitors. the whole site is run by only three person. as a studend of cultural related things i felt unhappy about the existing situation. as a resonssible generation we are expected alot to preserve and forwarded it to the future or coming generation
Date posted: May 2010
Solivagant (UK):
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.

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!

Indeed one suspects that, if the site were proposed today, it would probably not get past the ever tougher inspections of ICOMOS. Interesting certainly, but of more than local/regional significance? Unlikely? In 1980 the barrier was much lower and this was 1 of 4 Ethiopian sites inscribed that year. Nevertheless we enjoyed both the visit and the drive to and from.

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Site info

Country: Ethiopia
Inscribed: 1980
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (1) (4)
Category: Archaeological site, Prehistoric

Site history:
1980 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription
Bureau meeting - info requested in 78 still not in place
Bureau meeting - info requested

Site links

Official website:
»Tourism Ethiopia

In the news:
Not available

Related links:
» Photos of the Tiya stelae can be found on

Related Forum posts:
Not available

Getting there

This WHS has 1 location(s).


Stelae .
Built in the 10th century .
Shortest WHS names .

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