Website Category: Ancient Ethiopia
Criteria: (i) a creative masterpiece (iv) icon of an era
Location and Values: Aksum is located on a plateau in the far north of Ethiopia near the Eritrean border. It lies about 150 km south of Asmara and a similar distance from the Red Sea coast. It was once the centre of a great civilisation, the Aksumite Kingdom, which stretched from southern Egypt to the Gulf of Aden (including territory in southern Arabia), south to the Omo River, and west to the Kushite Kingdom of Meroë. Its wealth was based on trade with places as far afield as ancient Greece, Egypt and Asia, with Aksumite ships sailing as far as Sri Lanka. Although the city was established several centuries before Christ, its prosperity and influence was at its greatest between the 1st and 10th centuries AD, and it is during this period that most of the city’s remarkable monuments were built.
The dusty sprawling town of today belies its historical importance and interest to visitors. The most famous landmarks are the enormous obelisk-like stone stelae, up to 33m high, that stand – or lie broken where they fell – above a collection of unexcavated tombs. Elsewhere are the monumental 6th century tombs of Kings Kaleb, Gebre Meskel and Bazen, and the remains of a 6th to 7th century Palace. Two other notable sights are the Churches of Saint Mary of Zion where – in common Ethiopian belief – the Ark of the Covenant is kept; and a 4th century pillar, known as King Ezana’s Inscription, which is the Ethiopian equivalent of the Rosetta Stone, inscribed in Sabaean, Greek and Ge’ez (the predecessor of Amharic).
Slideshow of Aksum: The short slideshow features the massive obelisks of the northern stelae field.
Slideshow of Aksum:
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of Aksum on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.
Other Links: Official UNESCO Site Details