Some 365 km northeast of Gondar lies the town of Axum, site of Ethiopia’s oldest city. Axum dates back some 2000 years to when it was the hub of the Axumite Empire and the capital of one of the four world powers. The half-buried ruins of palaces and fortresses make Axum one of Ethiopia’s most important historical sites, and ongoing archaeological excavations and discoveries will help increase our understanding of its importance in the ancient world. The Queen of Sheba (called Makada in Ethiopia) made it her capital 1000 years before Christ.
Evidence of past glories include huge monolithic granite obelisks or stelae (pillars), some fallen and some still perpendicular, grouped together in the northeast of the town. Made of single blocks of granite, the tallest stood over 33 m high and weighs approximately 500 tonnes and is the largest monolith in the world. The four sides of this pillar are highly decorated and represent the front of a 12-storey building. The stelae were probably quarried in the granite mountains close by, but the method of transportation and techniques used to erect them are open to speculation.