(CNN)Archeologists have unearthed the remains of a town from an influential but little-known ancient civilization in East Africa that sheds light on the origins of Christianity in Ethiopia.
Archeologists unearth lost town from little-known ancient East African empire
The buried settlement, which contains one of the oldest churches in sub-Saharan Africa, was inhabited for some 1,400 years before vanishing into the dusty highlands of northern Ethiopia around AD 650.
Called Beta Samati, it was part of the Empire or Kingdom of Aksum, but prior to its discovery archeologists thought the area had been abandoned when the empire's ruling class set up its capital elsewhere.
The Kingdom of Aksum ruled over the region between 80 BC to AD 825 and was one of the ancient world's major powers -- conquering surrounding regions and trading with the Roman Empire, the researchers said. The kingdom converted to Christianity in the 4th century.
It was only in 2009 when archeologists spoke to local residents in the area near the discovery, who suggested the researchers investigate a hill near the modern