Ethiopian Christian culture has thus far not received the attention it deserves. Christianity, to which the Aksumite state in northern Ethiopia was converted as early as the fourth century, was a dominant influence in a vibrant civilization that can be documented for many centuries. Yet, as David Phillipson reports, the 318-page Early Christian Art and Architecture by Robert Milburn, published in 1988, devoted no more than thirty-nine words to the subject.

Phillipson, a former director of the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, has labored hard to redress the situation. An archaeologist renowned for his earlier work on ancient Aksum, which flourished in the first half millennium of the Christian era, he has more recently interested himself in its southerly successor civilization associated with the famous rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.

Phillipson's Ancient Churches of Ethiopia, a work of scholarship that...

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