the power of the text ge ez an ancient ethiopic script in prince george s county maryland l.
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THE POWER OF THE TEXT: Ge’ez: An Ancient Ethiopic Script in Prince George’s County, Maryland . Janet Chernela, Bethany Applebaum, Amy Carattini, Rachel Menyuk, Noelle Haile, and Shoshi Weiss (U Maryland). Ge’ez: An Ancient Script Preserved Through Time. Ge’ez: An Ancient Script.

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the power of the text ge ez an ancient ethiopic script in prince george s county maryland

THE POWER OF THE TEXT:Ge’ez: An Ancient Ethiopic Script in Prince George’s County, Maryland

Janet Chernela, Bethany Applebaum, Amy Carattini, Rachel Menyuk, Noelle Haile, and Shoshi Weiss

(U Maryland)

ge ez an ancient script
Ge’ez: An Ancient Script
  • Ge’ez (ɡɨʕɨz), also known as Ethiopic, is a Semitic language that developed in the horn of Africa. It was the official language of the Kingdom of Aksum and the Ethiopian imperial court. It was a spoken language until the tenth century.
  • Versions of Ge’ez formed the languages of present-day Ethiopia: Tigrina in the north and Amharic in the south.
  • A written form of Ge’ez was preserved specifically for religious purposes.
ge ez a written but not spoken language
Ge’ez: A Written, But Not Spoken, Language
  • Ge’ez is an alphasyllabary script, called an abugida, in which a character represents a consonant and a vowel together. This is different from alphabetic script, where each character denotes one sound -- either a consonant or a vowel.
  • Ge’ez has 26 main symbols. Some Ge’ez symbols appear to be pictographic, such as the symbol for house, while others are phonetic – indicating sound.
more on ge ez
More on Ge’ez
  • Ge’ez characters also carry numeric values; the numeric system reaches the number 5600. The symbols can also be organized into a calendar of one-half year or one equinox, with months of 30 days each.
  • Unlike other Semitic scripts that are written right-to-left, Ge’ez is written left-to-right.
today ge ez is the liturgical language of the ethiopian orthodox church
Today, Ge’ez is the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

This Ethiopian Orthodox Church is in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

debre genet medhane alem ethiopian orthodox tewahedo church
Debre Genet Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

This is the entrance to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Temple Hills, Maryland.

african immigrants are among the newest citizens of maryland
African immigrants are among the newest citizens of Maryland.
  • There are about 400,000 African born residents in the US.
  • Nearly 70% of Africans living in the US today arrived within the past 25 years.
  • Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area (including Maryland and Virginia suburbs) is site of the largest concentration of African immigrants in the country.
    • Ethiopian immigrants constitute largest subset, 18,000 people.
ethiopian immigrants in maryland
Ethiopian Immigrants in Maryland

Of the 18,000 Ethiopian immigrants in the Washington, D.C. Area,

over half (10,712) reside in Maryland.

another sacred ethiopian text the kebra nagast
Another Sacred Ethiopian Text: The Kebra Nagast
  • The Kebra Nagast (also Kebra Negast) is a sacred book of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. In English it is called The Book of the Glory of Kings.
  • The Kebra Nagast was first written in Coptic. It was later copied by hand into Arabic, and finally, into Ge’ez.
  • In its present form, the Kebra Nagast is at least 700 years old.
the kebra nagast text and the arc of the covenant
The Kebra Nagast Text and the Arc of the Covenant
  • According to the Kebra Nagast, the Arc of the Covenant with the tablets received by Moses on Mt. Sinai, was taken from Jerusalem to Ethiopia by Menelik I.
  • This is an important foundational text for Ethiopians.
the covenant a sacred text
The Covenant: A Sacred Text

Replicas of the powerful text are carried throughout Ethiopia in processions of the important Tabot ceremony.

the covenant a sacred text19
The Covenant: A Sacred Text

A replica is also carried in the Tabot ceremony in Maryland.

Tabot procession, EthiopiaTabot Procession, Maryland

musical texts
Musical Texts

Liturgical music written in Ge’ez, requiring lessons and memorization, is part of the religious service.

the power of writing similarities and differences
The Power of Writing: Similarities and Differences
  • The way Ge’ez is preserved for religious texts is similar to the way Hebrew was kept as a written language when it was not spoken. Hebrew was revived as a spoken language after 1600 years.
  • Latin, another language that is written but not spoken, has a special role in religious and legal matters.
  • Ge’ez is kept alive by a specialized priesthood that is able to read it and to write it.
who we are
Who We Are

Noelle Haile, Amy Carattini, Bethany Applebaum, Shoshi Weiss

we thank reverend zebene lemma
We Thank Reverend Zebene Lemma

Rachel Menyuk and Reverend Zebene Lemma


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photo images and acknowledgments
Photo Images and Acknowledgments

All photographs in Maryland were taken by our research team.

Ethiopia photo images from

We wish to thank the Center for Heritage Resource Studies and the Department of Anthropology of the University of Maryland.

We can be reached,