Ethiopia to Cape Town 2013

8 months - with Gitane - Toyota Hiace 4x4 van

Axum

November 18, 2013  —  Ethiopia

Northern Stelae field

Axum - Ethiopia
Great stele of 33 metres.

Axum, it's a modern town, but also an old empire, a culture, and a lot of history. Axum was the cradle of one of the most important civilizations of Ethiopia.

This kingdom would have started in the first century before our era. It reached its peak in the 5th and 6th centuries with an influence from Yemen to Sudan. The Axumite kingdom was controlling commerce on the Rea Sea and was doing business with other great nations such as India and Egypt.

The reasons for the decline of the empire are not really clear. Today, there are still ancient monuments all around the town. The most well-known are the famous great stelae of several metres carved in a single piece of rock. There are also old tombs, a royal palace, minor stelae, and the famous Ezana Stone.

Axum - Ethiopia
The great stele at 33 metres - 400 tons.
Axum - Ethiopia
Tombs under the stele.
Axum - Ethiopia
Rome stele 28 metres - 200 tons.
Axum - Ethiopia
Axum - Ethiopia
Ezana Stele 24 metres.
Axum - Ethiopia
A sarcophagus.
Axum - Ethiopia
The Northern Stelae field.
Axum - Ethiopia
A partially carved stela.
Axum - Ethiopia
The great stelae.
Axum - Ethiopia
Axum - Ethiopia
Axum - Ethiopia
Some stelae were carved to look like a building with several storeys and a front door.
Axum - Ethiopia

East of the main stelae field, there is another field with some superb stelae among which some have been carved.

Axum - Ethiopia
Axum - Ethiopia
A magnificent door has been started on this stela.
Axum - Ethiopia
A stelae and its support base that was underground.
Axum - Ethiopia
A pedestal at the base of a stela.
Axum - Ethiopia
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Ezana Stone

Axum - Ethiopia

The Ezana Stone takes its name from King Ezana who wanted it carved with the story of victories against enemies of the kingdom.

This stone is very important since it was carved in three languages of the time: Greek, Ge'ez (ancient language of Ethiopia), and Sabeen. Similar to the Rosetta Stone, it helped the historians to decipher the Ge'ez language with the help of the Greek translation.

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Tombs of King Kaleb and Gabra Masqal

Axum - Ethiopia

There were many kings in the Axumite Empire. Some of them had huge tombs build for the royal family and themselves.

Axum - Ethiopia
Outside the tomb.
Axum - Ethiopia
Sarcophagus (one is carved with a cross).
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Palace of the Queen of Sheba (Dungur)

Axum - Ethiopia

This structure, west of the town, looks like a palace or at the minimum a luxurious mansion.

There is little certainty regarding the usage of this building. It is unlikely that the Queen of Sheba has ever stayed here since the historians are not sure where this queen's kingdom was.

Axum - Ethiopia
Axum - Ethiopia
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Gudit Stelae Field

Axum - Ethiopia

In front of the palace of the Queen of Sheba, there is another stelae field predating those of the Northern Field. The stelae more or less look like the menhirs such as the famous Obelix is carrying on its back.

Axum - Ethiopia
Axum - Ethiopia
The stelae were possibly used as tombstones.
Axum - Ethiopia
Axum - Ethiopia
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Lioness of Gobedra

Axum - Ethiopia

The Lioness of Gobedra is located a few kilometres from town. It is a superb carving of a lioness measuring 3 metres.

Historians are not certain of the origin of this carving. It is located is one of the quarry where the rock for the stelae was cut.

Axum - Ethiopia

The quarry where huge stone blocks were made.

Axum - Ethiopia
This relief carving is about 3 metres wide.
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Other sites

Axum - Ethiopia
Tomb of King Bazen.
Axum - Ethiopia
Reservoir of May-Shum.
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The town of Axum

Axum - Ethiopia

The modern town is also very nice. Houses are often painted in a colourful way.

Axum - Ethiopia
Axum - Ethiopia
Carriage crossing.
Axum - Ethiopia
Axum - Ethiopia
There are a lot of bars in this town.