About the project

For the project “Virtual Reconstruction and Visualization of the South Arabian and East African cultural area” of the Sanaa branch of the DAI we created a large number of architectural visualizations and 3D models of the Ethio-Sabaean settlement Yeha in Ethiopia. The project had three aims. The main focus lay on the scientific reconstruction and visualization of Yeha’s unique monumental architecture: the palace-like building Grat Be’al Gibri and the Great Temple (early 1st millennium BCE). For the scientific reconstruction of these exceptional buildings, we worked in close collaboration with Dipl.-Ing. Mike Schnelle who specializes in Building Archaeology and Building History and provided most of the research data for this project.

The second aim was the digital reconstruction of the entire valley of Yeha within its paleoenvironment. The model was created on the basis of geoscientific and archaeological research. The characteristic mountain ranges, the terraced agricultural fields and the ancient woodland cover were reconstructed in the digital model as well as the entire settlement of Yeha.

Thirdly, a special feature of this project was the development a consistent visual language. The aim was to create a graphic, stylized form of representation, which we achieved through the use of lines and a reduced color palette. We worked with realistic daylight and placed great emphasis on the depiction of the elaborate architectural details and building materials. Additionally, we created a design-manual to document key features of this newly developed style.

The results of the Yeha visualization project will appear in scientific publications, exhibitions and at conference presentations.
For more information about the DAI project Yeha see:


  • Gerlach, I. (2015): “Weihrauch und Gold: Südaraber vor 3000 Jahren in Nordäthiopien”, in: Archäologie in Deutschland 5, 14-19.
  • Gerlach, I. (2023): “Zur Migration sabäischer Bevölkerungsgruppen zum nördlichen Horn von Afrika. Interaktionsprozesse und Kulturwandel”, in: N. Nebes/I. Gerlach (Eds.), Migration und Kulturtransfer zur kulturellen Interaktion im Vorderen Orient und in Nordostafrika im zweiten und ersten Jahrtausend v. Chr., Sabaica et Æthiopica. Schriften der Forschungsstelle Antikes Südarabien und Nordostafrika an der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena Bd. 1, Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden, 15-43.
  • Gerlach, I./Japp, S./Schnelle, M./Feseha, M. (2022): “Yeha – Centre of the Ethio-Sabaean polity (Tigray, Ethiopia)”, TANA 2022, 81-85.
  • Gerlach, I./Weiß, Ch. (2015): “Yeha, Äthiopien: Forschungen zur Paläoumwelt und Ressourcennutzung”, eDAI-F 3, 4–6.
  • Japp, S. (2019): “Yeha, Äthiopien. Archäologische Untersuchungen auf dem Kirchenvorplatz von Yeha. Die Arbeiten der Jahre 2013 bis 2018”, eDAI 2019-1, 14-18.
  • Schnelle, M. (2012): “Towards a Reconstruction of the Great Temple of Yeha (Ethiopia)”, in: A. Sedov (Ed.), New Research in Archaeology and Epigraphy in South Arabia and its Neighbours. Proceedings of the »Rencontrés Sabéennes 15« durchgeführt in Moskau, 25.–27. Mai 2011, Moskau, 387–415.
  • Schnelle, M. (2021): “Observations on architectural features from the early 1st millennium BC in South Arabia and East Africa”, in: Ch. Darles – L Khalidi – M Arbach (Eds.), Contacts between South Arabia and the Horn of Africa, from the Bronze Age to Islam. In Honor of Rémy Audouin, Sites et Cités d’Afrique Series, Toulouse, 145-158. 318-322.
  • Schnelle, M. (2022): “Überlegungen zur Gliederung sakraler Räume in Südarabien und Ostafrika”, in: I. Gerlach/G. Lindström/K. Sporn (Eds.), Heiligtümer. Kulttopographie und Kommunikationsformen im sakralen Kontext. Ergebnisse der Clustertagungen (2012-2018) Menschen – Kulturen – Traditionen 19. ForschungsCluster 4, Wiesbaden, 65-86.