Effect of the 2020–2022 War in Northern Ethiopia on Archaeological and Historical Heritage and the Environmental Context in Amhara National Regional State


  • Alemseged Beldados Addis Ababa University
  • Tania Tribe University of London
  • Christopher Tribe University of Cambridge
  • Mesfin Getie Wondim Ethiopian Heritage Authority
  • Dessale Mamo Lalibela Cultural Center
  • Lidya Bekele Independent Researcher
  • Eshetu Abey Ethiopian Heritage Authority


impact assessment, heritage, environment, tourism, North Ethiopia


In 2020, the war in northern Ethiopia spilled over from Tigray into the Amhara region. Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) troops occupied a large area in the north and east of the Amhara region for several months, including the town of Lalibela and its surroundings, where the Solomonic-Zagwe Encounters (SolZag) Project has been conducting archaeological and related work for many years. Once the occupation was over in the Lalibela area, project members undertook a three-stage impact assessment to address the effects of the war on the local communities, heritage sites, and environment of the area, as well as a brief evaluation of the situation in the Däse and Ḥayq areas. In addition to the immediate, acute impacts of the war on the local population, which included cases of murder, robbery, and displacement, there were chronic, on-going effects such as the lack of electricity and water supplies, food shortages, rising prices, and especially the collapse of tourism, the principal source of revenue for Lalibela. Environmental consequences included damage to farmland due to the excavation of fortifications and widespread deforestation for the production of charcoal for cooking, given the lack of electric power, and the deliberate burning of forested lands to expose those hidden inside. The cultural property in the area appears to have been exposed to very minor damage, with the marked exception of the Däse museum, which was ransacked during the occupation.