Excavation of archaeological site outside of Sembel.
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Sembel was the site of a village near Asmara. It was subsequently made a suburb of the capital to its south. Immediately after the Eritrean War of Independence, a large government subsidized housing project was constructed in the area. During its construction and that of a nearby Intercontinental Hotel, evidence of ancient settlement was found. The National Museum of Eritrea later constructed a building to allow viewing of the excavation.
The excavations at Sembel found evidence of an ancient pre-Aksumite civilization in greater Asmara. This Ona urban culture is believed to have been among the earliest pastoral and agricultural communities in the Horn region. Artefacts at the site have been dated to between 800 BC and 400 BC, contemporaneous with other pre-Aksumite settlements in the Eritrean and Ethiopian highlands during the mid-first millennium BC. Additionally, the Ona culture may have had connections with the ancient Land of Punt. In a tomb in Thebes dated to the reign of Pharaoh Amenophis II (Amenhotep II), long-necked pots similar to those made by the Ona people are depicted as part of the cargo in a ship from Punt.
- Schmidt, Peter R. (2002). "The 'Ona' culture of greater Asmara: archaeology's liberation of Eritrea's ancient history from colonial paradigms". Journal of Eritrean Studies. 1 (1): 29–58. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
- Avanzini, Alessandra (1997). Profumi d'Arabia: atti del convegno. L'ERMA di BRETSCHNEIDER. p. 280. ISBN 8870629759. Retrieved 15 September 2014.