Architecture: Stele

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Origin: Ethiopia , Axum 
Date: 3rd – 4th century

Description:  The most famous remains of Axum, the legendary city of the Queen of Sheba, are the stelae or obelisks that stand together in a field. The largest, weighing 500 tons, would have reached 33 meters in height if it had not fallen. She lies on the ground in several pieces. There is a hole in the ground next to it on the site of another stele, which was removed and transported to Rome during the Italian occupation. The hole is covered and ready to receive the return of the monolith.

A number of steles still stand on the site. The largest, shown opposite, culminates at 23 meters in height and rests on a limestone altar. They are all cut in a single block of granite and all have an altar, which would have been used for sacrifices. These stelae are the largest monolithic monuments known in the Old World. Their use and age remain a mystery. Some scholars, based on representations of ancient coins discovered at the foot of monuments, think they could have been carved and erected to the 3rd or 4th century AD. The nearby graves could mean that these obelisks were used as memorials to deceased kings and queens. But this is only a hypothesis.