Aksum is perhaps most famous and well known by
the mysterious stelaes.
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It is also the alleged resting place of the biblical
Ark of the Covenant and the purported home of the legendary Queen of Sheba. The
Kingdom of Aksum or Axum, also known as the Aksumite Empire was an important
trading nation in northeastern Africa, ruled from approximately 100–940 AD. The
Empire of Aksum at its height extended across most of present-day Eritrea,
northern Ethiopia, Yemen, southern Saudi Arabia and northern Sudan. The capital
city of the empire was Aksum, now in northern Ethiopia. The Kingdom used the
name "Ethiopia" as early as the 4th century.
The Aksum Empire was named as one of the four
great powers of the world along with Persia, Rome, and China. Aksum’s
prosperity seems to have peaked in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries AD.
Monumental royal tombs were constructed, each marked by a huge monolithic stela
carved to represent a multi-storied building. Around the same time, Aksum began
to produce its own coinage, with gold used for international trade, and copper
and silver for local circulation. In about AD 340, the Aksumite kingdom
formally adopted Christianity under king Ezana (320–360 AD), becoming only the
second nation in the world (after Armenia) to do this.