Learning from ancient art about aXuM

The Obelisk of Axum (ሓወልቲ ኣኽሱም) and  Ark of the Covenant

Wisdom of Gods

Ancient #Art by Nataša Pantović

The Obelisk of Axum (ሓወልቲ ኣኽሱም) is a 400 AC, 24 metre obelisk, weighing 160 tonnes, now in the city of Axum in Ethiopia. The obelisk or Hawelt in Ge'ez in Axum was a "marker" for underground burial chambers. The largest were for royal burial chambers. In Ethiopia there are only a few large ones, and hundreds of smaller ones in various "stelae fields". Near the top of the stele a small house like object is carved in relief, claimed by Ethiopians to house the original Ark of the Covenant.

Salt and Havell (1809) The Obelisk at Axum

In the 19th century, of the three major "royal" stelae, only this one, King Ezana's Stele remained erect, visible in the print "The Obelis of Axum" of Henry Salt (1780–1827).

Salt and Havell (1809) The Obelisk at Axum

Salt and Havell (1809) The Obelisk at Axum, Twenty-Four Views in St. Helena, The Cape, India, Ceylon, The Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt, London: William Miller. 1809

The Axum obelisk is regarded as one of Ethiopia's national religious treasures.

The stele was one of fifty obelisks in Axum at the time of the discovery, in 1937.  Italian troops took it to Rome, Italy, cut into five pieces and transported by trucks.

 “A crowd of Ethiopian ministers, priests and other VIPs cheered and clapped as it landed.” News reported the return of the obelisk. 24m tall, it weighs 160 tons, this 1,700 years old monument was welcomed by chanting priests.

Many Ethiopians see the obelisk as a vital national symbol. It was dismantled by Italian experts in 2004 in readiness for its journey home. The journey costed Italian government 6m euros. The 160-ton monument had to be broken into three pieces.

Axum was the largest, heaviest object ever transported by air. Heaters were installed and the obelisk was wrapped in steel bars for the six-hour flight. The airstrip at Axum had to be upgraded to handle the weight of the aircraft, and radar was installed.

A Recent Further Archaeological Discoveries in Aksum

Aksum (aXuM) is a World Heritage site with the major archaeological site. They were sent to prepare for the elevation of the Aksum Obelisk at its original location. The obelisk is carved to represent a nine-story building. At the base of the monument is a symbolic door, surrounded by a row of windows, crowned by a semi-circular headpiece representing the sun.

The most advanced technologies for underground observation – Geo-radar - revealed the existence of several vast funerary chambers under the site’s parking ground. According to the experts, the site is a royal necropolis used by several dynasties. It stretches to the foot of Mount Saint George and Mount Mariam.

Local legend has it that the palace was the seat of the Queen of Sheba and that one of the giant stele marks her burial place. The obelisks are stunning carved monuments placed near the Christian Church of St Mary of Zion, one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, destroyed and re-built during the Axum’s history.

As a group, the stelae of Axum are all carved from single massive monolithic blocks of solid granite and were transported weighing several hundred tones, raised up and embed in the earth. The largest has long since fallen, representing 13 stories, over 33 metres high.

A large fortress on the hilltop is constructed of similar giant blocks of granite, square in shape measuring 27 metres on each side. A visitor Cosmas in the 6th century AC narrates: “four towered palace of the King of Ethiopia” was decorated with “four brazen figures” of a unicorn, covered with the skin of a rhinoceros. The place was surrounded by giraffes.

A number of underground chambers lie beneath the fortress. These catacombs are tombs of Emperor Kaleb (514 - 542 AC) and his son Gebre. The entrance to each tomb is through a deep steep stone stairway leading into three separate chambers with doors carved in stone in the same way as the one on the stelae. Empty stone coffins lie within these deeply buried chambers.

Obelix of Axum

Obelisk of Axum in Rome, now in Ethiopia

Axum and Arc of the Covent

A year after the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, Moses was at the foot of Mount Sinai where he got instructions of how to build the Ark and with it, two tablets with 10 commandments.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant in Axum. The Ark is currently kept under guard in a treasury near the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. Replicas of the tablets within the Ark, are kept in every Ethiopian church.

The mythical Queen of Sheba, for Arabs "Bilqis", for Christian Ethiopians "Makeda", for an ancient Roman historian Josephus "Nicaule". Her son with King Solomon, carried it to Ethiopia. The island of Tana Qirqos is home to Ethiopian Christian monks who are certain the Ark was there for centuries together with other items that came with the Ark from Solomon's Temple.

 

The Ark Passes Over the Jordan gouache on board by James Tissot 1896

James Tissot: The Ark Passes Over the Jordan, 1896, donated to the New York Public Library, 1909

Some believe that the Ark was taken to the Chartres Cathedral by the Knights Templar.

Where did it come from and what is its meaning in Egypt

Arc found in Tutankhamun's tomb

In 1922 in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, a processional ark, the Anubis Shrine was excavated in the royal tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun (Tutan-XaMuN). The ark is constructed of wood, stored within the sacred tomb, guarding the tomb, holding sacred objects, has a figure of Anubis on its lid, and was carried by two rods inserted into rings at its base borne by eight priests in the funerary procession to Tutankhamun's tomb.

Arc of king Tutankhamun tomb Excavation artifacts 2400 BC

Arc of King Tutankhamun tomb Excavation artifacts 2400 BC

 

lions riders Tutankhamun tomb Artifacts 2400 BC

Lions Riders Tutankhamun tomb Artifacts 2400 BC

 

king Tutankhamun tomb Excavation artifacts 2400 BC

King Tutankhamun tomb Excavation artifacts 2400 BC

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