The Obelisks of Axum, Ethiopia




4th Century


Axum was the one of the earliest capitals of the Ethiopian polity. The Axumite Kingdom is believed to have extended from the Red Sea to the highlands of Ethiopia. The powerful and prosperous kingdom had commercial ties to Egypt, Persia, Arabia, Romans, Byzantines, Ceylon and India. Its material prosperity and the architectural skill of Axumites is shown by the great monolithic obelisks, royal tombs and palace ruins at Axum.


The most remarkable structures are the colossal obelisks located in and around the city of Aksum. These obelisks are carved out of a single block of granite, resembling multi-storey palaces. They have exquisitely carved false doors, windows, columns and beams. The largest standing obelisk rises to a height of over 23 metres. However, the largest (and the largest in the world) measuring over 33 metres lies in broken fragments where it fell. One of the obelisks of Axum was looted by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1937 but repatriated and installed at its original site in 2008.


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