Michigan Geographic Alliance
Aksum: No Questions
Cindy Bloom, Michigan Geographic Alliance
Overview: Students will map the rise and fall of an
ancient African empire and explain contributing
What is the difference between a kingdom,
Objectives: Students will:
Describe the components of a kingdom,
the fall of a kingdom/civilization/empire
Create a timeline of Aksum events
Map the rise and fall of Aksum
Use World GeoHistoGram/creation of Aksum Civilization on a handout for inquiry
atlases, World GeoHistoGram (MGA), Map of NE Africa/SW Asia
Teacher Materials: Teacher Background Notes; Aksum PowerPoint; C3 Strand References
References: CIA Factbook,
economic interdependence on Earth’s surface
Explain the connections between maritime trade
and the power of the Kingdom of Aksum in
each other and have similar conditions and
Modes of Spatial/Temporal Thinking:
Diffusion: Compare maps from different times,
describe changes in the extent of something, and
predict possible future spread or shrinkage.
D2.eco.1.6-8. explain how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society.
D2.Geo.2.6-8. Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between
the locations of places and regions, and changes in their environmental characteristics.
D2.Geo.2.9-12. Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships
between the locations of places and regions and their political, cultural, and economic dynamics.
D2.Geo.3.6-8. Use paper based and electronic map- ping and graphing techniques to represent and analyze spatial
patterns of different environmental and cultural characteristics
D2.Geo.5.6-8. Analyze the combinations of cultural and environmental characteristics that make places both
similar to and different from other places.
D2.Geo.5.9-12. evaluate how political and economic decisions throughout time have influenced cultural and
environmental characteristics of various places and regions
D2.Geo.7.6-8. explain how changes in transportation and communication technology influence the spatial
connections among human settlements and affect the diffusion of ideas and cultural practices.
D2.Geo.7.9-12. Analyze the reciprocal nature of how historical events and the spatial diffusion of ideas,
technologies, and cultural practices have influenced migration patterns and the distribution of human population
D2.His.1.6-8. Analyze connections among events and developments in broader historical contexts.
D2.His.1.9-12. evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time
and place as well as broader historical contexts
D2.His.12.6-8. Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to identify further areas of inquiry and
D2.His.12.9-12. Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to pursue further inquiry and
investigate additional sources
D2.His.14.6-8. explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in the past.
D2.His.14.9-12. Analyze multiple and complex causes and effects of events in the past.
discuss this area in Africa)
establishes towns or cities with some form of government; division of labor.
Empire: Form of government in which an individual or a single people rules over many other
peoples and their territory
Read the events silently and number them in chronological order.
Reread events and circle key verbs in each. What do the context clues tell us about this
Place the events in chronological order. How did you accomplish this?
Hold a class discussion of the events, noting how they relate to the definition of a civilization
Create the timeline. Complete first date with students as example.
Have students complete the activity and check together.
Guided Practice Part II-Hand out student atlases or use google earth/web maps, etc. Have
vegetation, natural resources)
What might Aksum have been able to trade? Using teacher notes, provide students with actual
GeoHistoGram blank sheet. (group work)
Students will place time periods and location of the Aksum civilization over time on the blank
comparison to the overview. Lead them into the inquiry process with questions and discussion.
Look at your diagrams of empires and possibly intercontinental bridges and decide whether
and discuss the aspects of culture, ie. religion and the push/pull factors that affected Aksum.(View the
GeoHistoGram Clickable PDFs on line or hard copy to demonstrate the aspect of religious perspective
and compare to the larger GeoHistoGram. Guide students to further knowledge: Why Aksum is placed
in the “Roman Civilization”?)
studied to see show similarities or differences of civilizations both current or those in the past.
Assessment of Activity:
the world today?
Students will read newspaper articles or research off the web that describe Ethiopia,
view Africa and Ethiopia. Attention should be given to whether Ethiopia is seen as a
unique African country in a full continent as opposed to just part of a single African
“country”. Students must determine whether Ethiopia is portrayed in a positive light
between how Egypt and Ethiopia are seen in the world. For example, is Egypt part of
Africa? Is Ethiopia part of Africa? Students will then determine whether the modern
day accounts present a fair picture of this region of Africa or not. Students will record
their findings and bring them into class the next day and use their GeoHistoGram info
to support their opinions..
Research the ivory trade of 100 C.E. and compare it to the ivory trade of today. Why has
happened to this group?
Research the coinage of Aksum. How does a coinage system change a trading system?
Compare the Aksum civilization to other civilizations of the time, for example, the Maya.
to influence Central America until C.E. 1500’s?
Research the Aksum using the primary document, Inscription of Ezana, King of Aksum,
Area ruled by an inherited ruler, often a king or queen
A society that has the following characteristics – produces a surplus of food; establishes
Form of government in which an individual or a single people rules over many other
peoples and their territory
Location – Blue Nile, Red Sea for trade
Fertile soil – agriculture
Currency – first African currency outside of Roman sphere
Some factors in the decline of Aksum:
The expansion of Islam
Movement of trade routes from Red Sea to Persian Gulf and east
Timeline Notes for Ancient Aksum Civilization
Southern Egypt, Djibouti,Western Somaliland, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia totaling around 1.25 million km2
beginning of their 2nd Golden Age
Unique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from
colonial rule with the exception of the 1936-41 Italian occupation during World War II. In 1974, a
military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile SELASSIE (who had ruled since 1930) and
established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive
refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces, the
Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A constitution was adopted in 1994,
and Ethiopia's first multiparty elections were held in 1995. A border war with Eritrea late in the
1990's ended with a peace treaty in December 2000. Final demarcation of the boundary is currently
on hold due to Ethiopian objections to an international commission's finding requiring it to surrender
territory considered sensitive to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is a landlocked - entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure
water volume, rises in T'ana Hayk (Lake Tana) in northwest Ethiopia; three major crops are
believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and castor bean
Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world - at least
Ethiopia's poverty-stricken economy is based on agriculture, accounting for almost half of GDP,
and poor cultivation practices. Coffee is critical to the Ethiopian economy with exports of some $350
million in 2006, but historically low prices have seen many farmers switching to qat (kahat) to
supplement income. The war with Eritrea in 1998-2000 and recurrent drought have buffeted the
economy, in particular coffee production. In November 2001, Ethiopia qualified for debt relief from
the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and in December 2005 the IMF voted to
forgive Ethiopia's debt to the body. Under Ethiopia's land tenure system, the government owns all
land and provides long-term leases to the tenants; the system continues to hamper growth in the
industrial sector as entrepreneurs are unable to use land as collateral for loans. Drought struck again
late in 2002, leading to a 3.3% decline in GDP in 2003. Normal weather patterns helped agricultural
and GDP growth recover in 2004-06.
Ethiopia is the transit hub for heroin originating in Southwest and Southeast Asia and destined for
Europe, as well as cocaine destined for markets in southern Africa; cultivates qat (khat) for local use
and regional export, principally to Djibouti and Somalia (legal in all three countries); the lack of a
well-developed financial system limits the country's utility as a money laundering center.
Religions: Christian 60.8% (Orthodox 50.6%, Protestant 10.2%), Muslim 32.8%, traditional 6%,
Exports: $17.65 million f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Switzerland 6.4%, Italy 5.9%, US 5.5%, Netherlands 4.2% (2005)
Imports: $4.105 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Partners: Saudi Arabia 14.7%, China 12.6%, US 12.4%, India 6.7%, Italy 4.6% (2005)
Commodities: food and live animals, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals,
machinery, motor vehicles, cereals, textiles
Interesting Facts About Eritrea’s Histo ry and C urrent A ff airs
Background Information: Eritrea was awarded to Ethiopia in 1952 as part of a federation.
Ethiopia's annexation of Eritrea as a province 10 years later sparked a 30-year struggle for
independence that ended in 1991 with Eritrean rebels defeating governmental forces;
independence was overwhelmingly approved in a 1993 referendum. A two-and-a-half-year
border war with Ethiopia that erupted in 1998 ended under UN auspices in December 2000.
Eritrea currently hosts a UN peacekeeping operation that is monitoring a 25 km-wide
Temporary Security Zone on the border with Ethiopia. An international commission,
organized to resolve the border dispute, posted its findings in 2002. However, both parties
have been unable to reach agreement on implementing the decision. In November 2006, the
international commission informed Eritrea and Ethiopia they had one year to demarcate the
border or the border demarcation would be based on coordinates.
Geographic Note: strategic geopolitical position along world's busiest shipping lanes;
independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993
Religions: Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant
Partners: Italy 31.4%, US 11.9%, Belarus 5.9%, France 5.1%, Germany 4.6%,
Commodities: livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures (2000) Imports:
Imports: $701.8 million f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Partners: Italy 15.1%, France 11.8%, US 9.5%, Germany 8.6%, Taiwan 7.3%,
India 7%, Ireland 6.1%, Turkey 4.4%, Jordan 4.2% (2005)
Commodities: machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured
Source: CIA World Fact Book (July 17, 2007)
Draft, September, 2015, Adams Michigan Geographic Alliance
The Rise of Axum
Ethiopia is one of the oldest inhabited areas on Earth so naturally, Axum arose from a series of
influential ethnic and cultural groups. Major influences include the Sabaean people from
Southern Arabia, the local Da'amot people, and the declining Kingdom of Kush in modern-day
Sudan. As Kush lost power, it presented the people of Axum an opportunity to grow and they
took it. Various Axum kings slowly expanded their influence in the first several centuries AD,
formally conquering Kush by 350. With this, they became the political and economic power of
the region. In fact, the Iranian prophet of the 3rd century, Mani, named Axum one of the four
great powers of the time, along with Persia, Rome, and China. Axum interfered in the Arabian
Peninsula and northern Africa, expanding its control to an area of almost a million square miles
that included parts of modern Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. Axum adopted
Christianity around 325 AD under the powerful King Ezana as well, connecting it culturally to a
growing number of Christian kingdoms.
The majority of their wealth came from the rise of a new sailing technique that used seasonal
winds to cross the Red and Arabian Seas, increasing the amount of trade that could pass through
that region. Axum was right at the intersection of trade routes between the Mediterranean and
these seas and was able to dominate the market on international trade.
The Decline of Axum
In the 7th century, the new religion Islam began spreading extremely quickly across the Middle
East and Africa. The new Islamic powers grew in power and size and constantly clashed against
rival Christian kingdoms. Axum, however, maintained good relations with their Islamic
neighbors, since the city had safely harbored the early followers of the religion back in the year
615. Nevertheless, as the Islamic kingdoms grew in prominence they came to economically
dominate the region, undermining the power of Axum. As Islamic powers gained control of the
most important ports, Axum began a gradual decline near the end of the 7th century.
As the kingdom lost wealth, the cities became more vulnerable to raiders and eventually the
capital city was abandoned as people moved into stronger kingdoms. The southern region of the
kingdom was still connected to overland trade routes with the Arabic kingdoms, but they never
had quite the same power.
According to local legends, a Jewish queen finally defeated the last Axum cities in the late 10th
century, bringing an end to the kingdom. Scientists have also identified signs of climate shift
around this time, leading to the decline of once-abundant resources, soil erosion, and drought.
Despite its recent tragic reputation, parts of Ethiopia are rich in natural resources, and Aksum
was well placed to exploit them. Timber was needed to make charcoal for the production of iron
tools and weapons, and this was abundant. Cereal crops grew easily in the well-watered, fertile
soil – the growing season could be as long as nine months, and two crops a year could be grown
on the terraces cut into the hillsides. There was good pasture for cattle. The population was
therefore well fed. While one of the greatest worries of the rulers of Rome was how to feed their
population, the kings of Aksum had no such problem. And if the rains failed, they had a secret
weapon – teff.
Teff is a grain that grows nowhere else except Ethiopia. Not only is it a crop that is far more
You will be mapping the rise and decline of the Aksum Kingdom. You should have the
following materials to complete the activity:
Locate and label the following on your map with a brown pencil: Ethiopia, Eritrea,
Use the information on your timeline to complete the rest of the map activity.
Using a red pencil, draw arrows from Aksum to areas/countries conquered by Aksum.
Label the appropriate date. Mark the location of the areas/countries, that traded with
Aksum. Label the appropriate date.
Decline of Aksum
Using a purple pencil, draw arrows back to Aksum showing the effect of Persia on
Aksum trade. Label the arrow with the appropriate date.
Using a black pencil, draw an “X” over Aksum and Kush, and label the date each moved
Map Thinking Questions: When you are finished with your map, complete the
following questions in complete sentences.
What did Aksum gain by conquering Kush?
List ways the Aksum civilization’s location helped in their development of trade.
Using a green pencil, draw arrows from Aksum to the areas/countries, or in the direction