Axum, Heart of an Ancient Empire
Once the hub of a great civilization that spread from East Africa, across the Red Sea, and into the Arabian Peninsula, Axum is home to some of the most significant archeological findings on the entire continent. Ethiopian and foreign scholars working in the region believe they've only hit the tip of the iceberg of artifacts and ruins waiting to be discovered.
The most obvious of Axum's ancient wonders are the huge stelae erected over 1,700 years ago. These massive pieces of solid stone were hauled four kilometers from a quarry, carved into obelisks, and then raised upright. How the Axumites were able to achieve such technological marvels remains a mystery. The tallest stele is 23 meters (75 feet) high, while one which lays shattered is 33 meters in length and weighs a staggering 500 tons.
King Ezana's Stone
In the 4th century, the Axum King, Ezana, officially accepted Christianity making it the second country to recognize Christianity as an official religion. (Ezana learned of Christianity from his childhood tutor, a Syrian Christian named Frumentius.)
In the 1980's a trio of farmers discovered an inscribed stone in their fields. Nearly 1,700 years old, the text boasts of Ezana's victories in three languages: Geez, Sabaean, and Greek. As the inscription gives thanks to a pagan god it predates Ezana's conversion.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the guardian of the Ark of the Covenant which is held in an Axum church. According to church history, the Ark was brought to Ethiopia from Jerusalem by Menelik, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.