Aksum ( Axum also written in the local language ' Tigrinya ' Akhsum, older form Akhwsem ) is the former capital of the Kingdom of Aksum. Today the city lies in the region of Tigray in northern Ethiopia, about 50 kilometers from the border with Eritrea, and has 61 429 inhabitants according to a calculation in 2012. Aksum applicable in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as a holy city, in the Church of Saint Mary Zion is kept the ark to Ethiopian Orthodox tradition.


Aksum is located at about a kilometer wide output of the valley between the two up to 2200 meter high hills Beta Giyorgis and May Qoho, between the seasonally flowing streams Lahlaha May and May Hejja. Today Aksum takes about a 1.5 km ²; the extent of the ancient city is unknown, but the preserved remains occupy a similar area.


Early history

The foundation of Aksum can not safely be dated. In the written sources to Aksum is the first time in the Periplus Maris Erythraei and in the Geographike Hyphégesis of Claudius Ptolemy. Both sources indicate Aksum as the residence of the king of the also mentioned only at this time Aksumite Empire, which in addition to the northern Ethiopian highlands and the port city of Adulis (now in Eritrea) already controlled at that time. After crossing King Ezana to Christianity Aksum was one of the first Christian capitals.

The center of ancient Aksum was located in the west of the modern town, on both sides of the May Lahlaha. There, the remains of some larger, more representative buildings belonging to the upper classes were apparently found. Of the residential buildings of the population, however, no remains have so far been discovered, and there are no traces of fortifications, probably such investments made ​​with the natural protection of the city by the surrounding mountains unnecessarily. Further east, in the area of ​​Maryam Tseyon Cathedral, there was another larger building, perhaps a pre-Christian temple in the immediate vicinity are the remains of stone thrones are that the Monumentum Adulitanum, once contributed, perhaps, similar inscriptions. Similar structures are also found at the foot of the MAI Qoho, west of the southeastern stelae field, with its eponymous monumental stelae it is grave monuments of distinguished persons. Similar stelae fields are also in the north and southwest. The highest, 33 meters high and 517 -ton stele broke probably already in their design. The second highest, 25 m high stele ( Obelisk of Axum ) was stolen during the Italian occupation in 1937, built in Rome and returned despite Ethiopian protests, first in April 2005 and set up again in September 2008. Smaller specimens have defied until today maintains the time.

From 600 to the Present

The city suffered from circa 600 under the collapse of the empire, and was abandoned in the meantime, received later, again meaning among other things, as a religious center. Aksum was place of coronation of Ethiopian kings up to the time of the last emperor Haile Selassie in the 20th century.

Aksum is now the most important pilgrimage site of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. After the conviction of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the Israelite Ark of the Covenant in Axum. This should have been the Kebra Nagast, an Ethiopian font from the 13th century, according to Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, brought into the country. A monk is still entrusted to his death with guarding the Ark of the Covenant. This object is passed to a successor before his death.

Politically, Aksum today a small district capital ( in the Woreda Laelay Maychew in the zone Mehakelegnaw ), which was included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1980 for its historical ruins and outstanding history.


On March 7, 1905, the German - Ethiopian trade and friendship treaty and the agreement on the exchange of diplomatic relations from the Messenger of the German Government Friedrich Rosen and Emperor Menelik II were signed. In the context of these contacts Emperor Menelik II asked for a German excavation team for Aksum. Kaiser Wilhelm II took this request with joy. He sent at his own expense in 1906, an excavation team under the direction of Enno Littmann. This was a special honor for the German Empire, so far to be able to make all other nations, who asked, excavations at Aksum since that approval had been denied. This success was probably because of the personality of the Orientalists roses.

Since the 1980s ( 1948-2005 ) have conducted numerous excavations by the British Institute under the direction of probably the most important Aksum researcher Stuart Munro - Hay. Munro -Hay not only laid the foundations of a Münzdatierung for the Aksumite Empire, but is recognized as the undisputed reference for the early Aksumite history and archeology. From 1993 to 1998 David Phillipson took charge of the excavations on the large stelae field and discovered numerous grave chambers, which have been dated to the Aksumite period prior to the conversion to Christianity. The famous catacombs were excavated under the large stele and the Tomb of the Brick Arch. So that the stelae were first clearly identified as tombs. Since the early 1990s, excavations of the Italian archaeologist Rodolfo Fattovich be performed on Table Mountain Beta Georgis above Aksum, who managed to establish a typology of the Aksumite pottery. Since 1999, private excavations under the direction of retired professor Helmut Ziegert be performed from Hamburg. Under a Christian building, called the Palace of Dungur, dated to the 7th century AD, are older building structures have been found which Ziegert dated to the 10th century BC. However, this dating and the interpretation Ziegerts is extremely controversial among experts.


According to the Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency in 2005 Aksum had 47.320 inhabitants.

In 1994, of 27,148 inhabitants, 98.54 % Tigray. The largest minority groups were Amhara (0.82 %) and Eritrean nationals (0.37 %), 0.26 % belonged to other ethnic groups. 98.68 % spoke Tigrinya as a native language and 1.14 % Amharic.

Sons and daughters of the town

  • Zeresenay Alemseged (* 1969), paleoanthropologist