Lying 59km to the south of Massawa, near the village of Foro, is the ancient ruins of Adulis. Once numbering among the greatest ports of the ancient world, Adulis was the site of large and elegant buildings and bustling international port. Inhabited since at least the 6th century BC, the site is the oldest in Eritrea.
Adulis’ importance lay in its port, and by the 3rd century AD the port had grown to become one of the most important on the Red Sea. Trade of this time flourished from the Mediterranean all the way to India. Its heyday came during the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, and then it went into decline, before a brief revival in the 7th century. The town supplied all the major towns: Kohaito, Metera and Keskese.
Adulis has been excavated, and its links with the Roman, Egyptian and Greek empires and with distant ports are shown by broken pottery made by the many manufacturing methods that can be used to date the past and its events.
The most recent excavation, since Peribeni`s first major study done in 1907, was carried out by Anfray in the 1970s. It has become obvious from these excavations that the town was very significant, sitting astride major ancient trade routes from Egypt to the Indian Ocean.
Vast quantities of artifacts have attested to the richness of life in the town: gold and silver coinage, glass, marble, decorated pottery, et cetera. Most of the unearthed ruins are constructed in black basalt; there are tombs, a palace, what is possibly an 8th century Christian church and an earlier temple for the worship of the sun.
Adulis` importance was eclipsed in the 7th century, probably by a combination of Arab raids and the port silting up. It is hoped that Adulis will eventually be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.