Aksum was a city in the Kingdom of Aksum, which controlled the northern highlands of the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea between the 1st and 7th centuries CE. The ruins of this past splendour, as well as the site’s groundwater resources, have ensured that human settlement has continued almost uninterrupted to the present day. Most often associated with its political and religious symbols, such as the Ark of the Covenant or the ceremony of the coronation of the Christian kings, Aksum is also home to a specific culture that can be described as urban for the following reasons: an exclusive right to land ownership has been passed down through the generations, in connection with a hereditary and ancestral legitimacy. Now called qwelz, a rare term that originally referred to the maintenance of the walls and paved floors of the Church of Maryam Seyon in Aksum, this land right is the symbol of an elite, urban culture. Our in situ investigation allows us to shed specific light on the subject to contribute to an urban history of ancient Ethiopia that is still in search of sources.
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