Akkele Guzay was a province in the interior of Eritrea until 1996, when the newly independent national government consolidated all provinces into six regions. The province's population predominantly consisted of followers of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church. Traditionally a part of the Kebessa (Eritrean Highlands), it is the locality of the town of Dekemhare. The province is now mostly part of the Northern Red Sea and Debub (Southern) regions. "Akkele Guzay" means akkelt gazaya (tigre language)
Akkele Guzay is one of the most ancient regions of Eritrea. It has an inscriptional record going back to at least the 9th century BC, the earliest example of the Ge'ez script. The province was part of the Kingdom of D'mt that would evolve into the Kingdom of Aksum.
Akkele Guzay's name has been connected by some to the Gaze of the Monumentum Adulitanum (which later medieval Greek notes in the margins associate with the Aksumite people). If the note regarding the Gaze is accurate, it would connect the name of Akkele Guzay to the Ag`azyan or Agazi (i.e. Ge'ez speakers) of the Kingdom of D'mt in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, who later became the Biher-Tigrinya people and Tigre. This connection has been rejected by linguists in modern times, however, due to the lack of the middle voiced pharyngeal fricative in the triliteral root, which is usually preserved in Tigrinya (the main language in Akkele Guzay). Instead, the name may be connected with the Agwezat clan conquered by the 4th century King Ezana of Axum, and the Agaze (unvocalized 'GZ, referring either to a person or a group) of the Hawulti at Matara. Along with Agame in Ethiopia, it was a main center of Aksumite culture (second only to Western Tigray, where the capital was located), with a distinct sub-culture that separated the two regions from that of Western Tigray (Shire, Axum, Yeha), Central Eritrea (Seraye, Hamasien, and Adulis), and frontier areas in northern Eritrea and Central Ethiopia. During medieval times, parts of southern Akkele Guzay were briefly part of the larger province of Bur in Ethiopia, which also included Agame, some northeastern Afar lowlands, and the Buri Peninsula; southern Akkele Guzay and Agame were part of "Upper" (La'ilay) Bur, while the lowlands were further distinguished as "Lower" (Tahtay).
- Fattovich, Rodolfo, "Akkälä Guzay" in Uhlig, Siegbert, ed. Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: A-C. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz KG, 2003, p. 169.
- Stuart Munro-Hay, Aksum: An African Civilization of Late Antiquity. Edinburgh: University Press, 1991. Page 187 in "online version" (PDF). (838 KiB)
- L. P. Kirwan, "The Christian Topography and the Kingdom of Axum" in The Geographical Journal. The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), 1972. p.173.
- A. F. L. Beeston, "Review: Excavations at Aksum: An Account of Research at the Ancient Ethiopian Capital Directed in 1972-74", in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. School of Oriental and African Studies, 1992.
- Stuart Munro-Hay, Aksum: An African Civilization of Late Antiquity. Edinburgh: University Press, 1991. "Online version" (PDF). (838 KiB), pp.36-37.
- Rodolfo Fattovich, "Some Data for the study of Cultural History in Ancient Northern Ethiopia" in Nyame Akuma. Newsletter of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists in America, May 1977, pp. 6-18.
- "Bur" in Uhlig, Siegbert, ed. Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: A-C. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz KG, 2003.