In the city of Axum in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, there is an obelisk with quite a history. Simply called "The Obelisk of Axum," this 1,700 year-old, 78 foot work weighs nearly 160 tons and features two false doors as well as numerous decorations resembling windows on all sides.

The obelisk, or "stele," was believed to be carved and erected during the 4th century in the Kingdom of Aksum.

In 1935, Italian soldiers discovered the obelisk. In 1937 it was taken to Rome by the Fascist Regime as a commemoration to the conquest of Ethiopia.

After World War II, in a 1947 UN agreement, Italy agreed to return the obelisk to Ethiopia. However, action wasn't taken until 2003. Many logistical obstacles arose during this time: the runway at the Axum Airport was considered too short for the cargo planes needed to transport the obelisk (which had been cut into three large pieces), the roads and bridges between Axum and Addis Ababa were considered inadequate for this sort of transportation, and access through the nearby Eritrean port of Massawa, which is how the Italians originally transported the obelisk out of the country, was impossible due to the strained state of relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Eventually, the runway at Axum was upgraded and the three large pieces returned to Ethiopia in April of 2005, nearly 70 years after leaving the country. Reassembly began in June of 2008 and the monument was resurrected in its original home and unveiled on September 4, 2008.


The Obelisk of Axum in Rome in 2002, before its return to Ethiopia.
Pictured above is Giorgio Croci, the engineer behind the reassembly of the obelisk.
He has been viewed as a hero by many Ethiopians.
Above is the obelisk during its state of reconstruction in 2008.

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