Axum: a mysterious city with giant “skyscrapers”

Axum, located in northern Ethiopia, is not only a historical city, but also the place where the mighty Kingdom of Axum flourished. This is where the mystery associated with this ancient city begins. The main monuments of Axum are the giant steles, the creation of which is still a mystery.

Of the total number of steles in and around Axum, most are small monoliths, but there are some impressive examples among them. One of the most famous steles is a 24-meter obelisk that was cut into three pieces and taken to Rome by Italian soldiers during the Fascist Italian takeover of Ethiopia in 1937. After a long diplomatic dispute, the obelisk was returned to Axum in 2005.

Installing the stela, even piece by piece, required heavy construction equipment. The obelisks themselves were created from solid blocks of bluish basalt, one of the hardest rocks. Interestingly, it took several kilometers to bring this basalt to Axum.

Officially, the steles date back to the first centuries AD, but there is a legend that they were erected by cyclops giants. Historians still argue about the reality of the Queen of Sheba, but local guides proudly show the “pool of the Queen of Sheba” – a body of water carved into the rocks.

The total number of stelae in Axum and its immediate vicinity, according to some sources, is over one hundred and seventy. Only a couple or three massive monoliths stand out from the whole mass of local poorly worked stones of relatively small size.

The most impressive are the steles that are located in the city itself. Although even here the overwhelming majority are almost untreated monoliths of sometimes very modest size. But there are also some very impressive specimens.
Also impressive, of course, is the broken stele, the weight of which is estimated at 500 tons. The pedestal of this stele disappeared somewhere without a trace…. Its length as a whole was 33.5 meters.

But the most “famous” stele is a 24-meter obelisk weighing 180 tons, which has survived to this day. In 1937, after Ethiopia was invaded by fascist Italy, the Aksum 24-meter obelisk was cut into three pieces by Italian soldiers and taken to Rome. Against the recommendation of the UN (1947), Italy resisted the return of the obelisk, causing a long diplomatic dispute. Ethiopia considers the obelisk a national treasure. In April 2005, Italy returned the obelisk to Axum and paid the transportation costs of $4 million. UNESCO took on the task of reinstalling the stele. In June 2008, the lower part of the obelisk was installed, and in July the installation of all three parts of the stele was completed…. The obelisk is set on a hill that was transformed by ancient builders into a three-tiered platform made of massive slabs.

There is also its “reduced copy” 21 m high and weighing 120 tons, installed nearby.

Obelisks are made of solid blocks of bluish basalt – one of the hardest rocks. Moreover, such basalt had to be specially delivered to Axum, as the nearest outcrops of this rock are several kilometers away from the city.

Officially, the steles date back to the first centuries AD. However, there is a legend in Aksum itself, according to which they were erected by giants-cyclopes, who knew how to melt stone. They poured it into long wooden molds, and when the stone cooled, it was shaped, polished and then turned into giant steles.

The most important mystery is why and how such a huge weight was moved.

Axum is also associated with the Ark of the Covenant. It is believed to be the last place associated with the Ark. According to local lore, it was to Axum that the Queen of Sheba returned after her trip to King Solomon. Historians still argue about the reality of the existence of this queen in ancient times. However, local guides are proud to show tourists the “pool of the Queen of Sheba” – a deep and vast body of water carved into solid rock.

Axum is also notable for being the last place mentioned in connection with the Ark of the Covenant. Some believe that the Ark is still there today.

All these mysteries once again show how little modern science knows about our past, often all the unexplained and incomprehensible to her writing off the mass religious insanity of ancient peoples …

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