Jan Nyssen

10 September 2022

There are attempts to offer a post-hoc justification of the military conquest and ethnic cleansing of Western Tigray by the combined Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces in late 2020. For this purpose, an “eternal Amharic character” of Welkait and the surrounding districts is invoked. Historical records, however, show a typical Tigrayan rural landscape. We analysed the notebooks of ethnographer Giovanni Ellero, holding field notes from Welkait in the 1930s and extracted a list of 574 place names as recorded by Ellero and his translators. The etymology of almost all place names is of Tigrinya origin, with a few of Oromo, Falasha, Arab or biblical origin. In the whole list of place names, there are less than ten locations that in 1939 held a name of Amharic origin. More specifically, among the 574 place names, there are 229 “Addi …” (village in Tigrinya) and 49 “May …” (water).