Pillars of Ethiopian Culture

The monuments in Aksum remind us of an era in which a strong, ancient civilization ruled in the Horn of Africa, categorized by UNESCO as a significant stage in human history. The stelae, mansions and first churches were built during Aksum’s rise as the capital of the Aksumite Kingdom. They represent the wealth, craftsmanship, and organizational skills from the Aksumites at the crossroads of Africa, Arabia and the Greco-Roman world. The stelae generally functioned as burial markers for the elite. The tallest and marvellously carved stelae appear to decorate the tombs of the Aksumite kings. Alongside traditional standards, a Christian culture developed. Aksum was the alleged home of the Biblical Queen of Sheba, and the Ark of the Covenant. Churches were built in honour of them, and in later centuries, the mansion in Dungur, and the bath in the centre of Aksum were ascribed to the Queen of Sheba. All of these monuments qualify as true masterpieces, and stand proud in Aksum's physical domain.

The continuous embracement of the past made the early Aksumite civilization and Christianity pillars of Ethiopian culture. The appreciation of Aksum’s glorious past is not only exemplified by attempts in keeping the past visible and tangible - for example by reconstructing and supporting stelae, excavations, the rebuilding of churches, and the realization of a museum - but by rituals too. Annually, the Epiphany is celebrated with the Queen of Sheba’s Bath at its centre; Central Stele Park provides the setting for the festival for the Ark of the Covenant. Aksum’s heritage is a reminder of a lost, wondrous ancient civilization, but is still alive as the symbolical heart of Ethiopian culture.

One of the stelae in Northern Stele Park. The picture shows the sloping ground on which the stelae were positioned.