In Search of King Tona’s Palace: The Politics of Archaeology and Memory in Southern Ethiopia

Author(s): Justin Dunnavant

Year: 2017


In 1896 Emperor Menelik II of Abyssinia engaged in one of the bloodiest battles of his military campaigns, attempting to unseat King Tona of Wolaita. After two weeks of fighting, King Tona was captured and the royal court devastated. The last palace of the Wolaita Kingdom stood in Dalbo just 10 kilometers northeast of the current city of Soddo. While the general location of King Tona’s palace is known, contesting narratives situate the exact location at different sites. This paper reports on findings from a 2016 survey and excavations at Dalbo in search of the palace of King Tona. Although the excavations revealed evidence of a stone foundation and wooden structure, the materials are unlikely associated with the famed palace of the Wolaita King. Instead, analyses of the ceramic and lithic material allude to a long occupation history at the site that may stretch back as far as the Middle Stone Age. These findings provide insight into the development of complex societies in southern Ethiopia and, interestingly, unearth key contentions of memory and forgetting within contemporary Wolaita social politics.

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In Search of King Tona’s Palace: The Politics of Archaeology and Memory in Southern Ethiopia. Justin Dunnavant. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428855)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15526