Residents of the small town of Harlaa in eastern Ethiopia have long suspected that ancient coins and pottery fragments uncovered there represented a trail to undiscovered riches. They weren't far off, reports Quartz. After two years of digging in Harlaa, archaeologists have found ancient beads in almost every color of the rainbow, crafted of rock crystal, carnelian, and glass; cowry shells; and various pottery pieces—evidence of an ancient city that traded with China, India, and the Maldives between the 10th and 15th centuries. "This discovery revolutionizes our understanding of trade in an archaeologically neglected part of Ethiopia," archaeologist Timothy Insoll says in a release. "What we have found shows this area was the center of trade in that region."
Researchers—who uncovered a jewelry workshop, per the Telegraph—believe the center was known for its high-quality jewelry made with silver, bronze, glass, and semi-precious stones from as far away as India. The jewelry was traded with people "in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and possibly as far away as the Arabian Gulf," Insoll says. It isn't clear what residents received in return, though shells; pottery from Madagascar, the Maldives, Yemen, and China; and bronze and silver coins from 13th-century Egypt were found. A 12th-century mosque found also suggests the city was connected to Islamic communities in Africa, specifically in Tanzania and Somaliland, reports the BBC. Archaeologists next plan to examine remains in an ancient Harlaa cemetery. ("Sleeping Beauty" was found in Ethiopia.)