Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia?

The fabled Ark of the Covenant may not be in some nondescript crate in a massive US government warehouse but rather in the small Ethiopian town of Aksum where it is guarded by a virgin monk who can never leave the chapel where it sits. And nobody else can see it either. Smithsonian magazine sent Paul Raffaele to investigate. From Smithsonian:
I asked (His Holiness Abuna Paulos, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) if the ark in Ethiopia resembles the one described in the Bible: almost four feet long, just over two feet high and wide, surmounted by two winged cherubs facing each other across its heavy lid, forming the "mercy seat," or footstool for the throne of God. Paulos shrugged. "Can you believe that even though I'm head of the Ethiopian church, I'm still forbidden from seeing it?" he said. "The guardian of the ark is the only person on earth who has that peerless honor..."

(We) made our way toward the office of the Neburq-ed, Aksum's high priest, who works out of a tin shed at a seminary close by the ark chapel. As the church administrator in Aksum, he would be able to tell us more about the guardian of the ark.

"We've had the guardian tradition from the beginning," the high priest told us. "He prays constantly by the ark, day and night, burning incense before it and paying tribute to God. Only he can see it; all others are forbidden to lay eyes on it or even go close to it." Over the centuries, a few Western travelers have claimed to have seen it; their descriptions are of tablets like those described in the Book of Exodus. But the Ethiopians say that is inconceivable-–the visitors must have been shown fakes.
Link

Previously on BB:
• DIY Ark of the Covenant Link
• Raiding the Lost Ark Link

40

  1. this has been one of the proposed resting places of the ark for a while. We’re interested in it because its a symbol of antiquity, possibly fueled by watching indiana jones as kids.

    its not interesting because this kind of “we have something but can’t prove it, believe on faith” is the kind of tom foolery you can expect from religion. IF there is a artifact matching the fictional accounts of the exodus from egypy, it was created to lend creedence to that fiction.

  2. I hope they have more than a nun guarding it–it doesn’t really matter if it’s real (which any Bayesian will tell you it ain’t.) If it is valuable to anyone, for whatever reason, bad guys will try to steal it.

    In the mid-90’s I was peripherally involved with a tech startup that had some remarkably shady financial backing, and one of the more respectable investors told me that one of the others had proposed a plan to steal this artefact, whatever it is.

  3. The power of the Ark is what is called Kedusha, God’s Immanent Life Force in the physical world.

    The reason there are reports such as this, with their simplistic conclusions, is due to the refusal of the world’s scholars (who pride themselves on their childish understanding, which openly deny God’s existence) to sit and learn the inner secrets of Torah.

    As is written, small children now know deep secrets unheard of by the so-called leaders of the world.

  4. In Graham Hancock’s book, “The Sign and the Seal”, he says that these monks have a pretty short lifespan once they’re chosen to be the Ark’s guardian. The monk he visited in the book has cataracts and is visibly weakened from what Hancock assumes is prolonged close-quarters exposure to the Ark. The Ark has been thought by some Biblical historians to be some primitive form of battery/electrical discharge unit, and the condition of the guardian monk seems to confirm that whatever it is they’re guarding emits some kind of radiation.

  5. I’ve got the Holy Grail over at my house, I’d show it to the world, but you know: I’m the only one who’s not forbidden from seeing it.

  6. “wh prd thmslvs n thr chldsh ndrstndng, whch pnly dny Gd’s xstnc”

    ‘m spr dpr prd!

    lk hvng wrld vw tht cn hv chngd n th blnk f n y by th dscvry f nw fcts, rthr thn n nchngng wrldvw bsd n th scrbblngs f mrdrng, rpng, nmds, tht wh hld t scrsnct dsrgrdng nythng tht mght cntrdct t.

    Scnc wns!

  7. Steal the Ark of the Covenant from Aksum? And do what with it? It’s only one of the most recognizable artifacts in the world.

    No way could the theft go unnoticed; and once Aksum raised a hue and cry, you’d have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting away with it. Aksum’s in a desert: not many alternate routes, almost no cover. All it takes is someone with a phone, radio, or internet connection getting out an APB about what you’ve done, what you’re driving, and your last known direction.

    The pursuit doesn’t stop at the Ethiopian border. You’ve just plundered a World Heritage Site and created an international incident, and word of it is spreading out around you in all directions. Even if you manage to get airborne, all your choices are bad.

    Besides, I wouldn’t put it past the Ethiopians to have a decoy Ark of the Covenant in place.

  8. Josh Bernstein claimed this was the resting place of the Ark in an episode of Digging for the Truth a few years ago. And it wasn’t a new theory back then. As for me, I’ll believe it when I see it.

  9. I used to have the Ark of the Covenant at my house, but those damned firefighters turned me in to the DHS. Now it’s probably in frakkin’ Ethiopia for all I know!

  10. …What gets me is that with 20+ years of turmoil in Ethiopia, why some tribal chieftan hasn’t stormed this really small building – more like a mausoleum than a temple – kicked the caretaker out to the dirt, and taken what’s inside for himself.

  11. Whatever, I’m not worried about anything happening to it. Face melting issues aside, no terrorist is going to blow it up.

    YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S INSIDE OF IT JUST AS MUCH AS I DO, DOCTOR JONES!

  12. Well, I’ve got news for Aksum: you may have the Ark and all that, but the Holy Sepulcher of the Tooth Fairy and Santa’s Secret Who’s-Naughty-or-Nice Decoder Ring are mine, Mine, ALLL MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!!!!!!! And, when I finally recover the Purple Easter Bunny’s Foot, I will kick the footstool of g*d into splinters–to be sold at a pretty penny on e-bay.

  13. LSSN HR:

    Cllng thsts chldsh n bng bng = Ttlly cl.

    Sttng tht th ncnt hbrws wr mrdrng (tr) rpng (ls tr) nmds (n nd ff) wh hld thr blfs scrsnct (by th txts thy mst) s wrng, nd wll b dtd.

    ls, scnc pprntly ds nt wn.

    lt m knw f y nd ctl vrss bckng p ch ndvdl clm. ‘m gng n lnch sn.

  14. Cpt. Tim: There’s a difference between pointing out historical facts and pointing out a carefully-selected handful of historical facts cherry-picked to make your point while being an asshole about it.

    This is much like the difference between saying “I told you so” and jumping up and down while pointing and loudly crying “How do you like them apples”.

    Simply because the opposing side has descended to less than responsible levels does not mean you should do so as well.

  15. The NYTimes did a story on this in 1998.

    Still, I’m in the camp who believes it’s in US gov’t warehouse. When I visited the Smithsonian’s complex in Suitland, MD (where they keep all the stuff that’s not in the museums) to do research a few years ago, the archivist who showed me around let slip that they keep the ark in one of the buildings there. And we all know archivists have no sense of humor, so clearly he wasn’t joking.

  16. lk t whn th ppsng sd hs thr nslts ntrnshd, whl mn ws fr f prsnl ttcks, jst n ndctmnt f trb frm thsnds f yrs g.

    th fct rmns.

    thsts nd pn mndd rlgs ppl llw thr thnkng t b gdd by th scntfc prcss. w bndn prvsly hld blfs n th fc f cncrt vdnc tht frcs s t mdfy r thrs. rlgs dgm ds nt hv ths flxblty. t lst ‘m bsng ll f my sttmnts f fct. ts hrdly chrry pckng whn sm f th bst mdrng tht hppnd ws whn th trbs wr crryng rnd th vry bjct n qstn, nd slghtrng cts whlsl.

    t lst vdd cmmnts lk th (ndtd) str bnny nd tth fry jbs.

  17. thrs ls th fct tht vr th yrs ‘v cm t ths cnclsns wth rcmmndtns tht ncld stff ‘v fnd hr.

    Sm Hrrs nd Dwkns sm t b prtclrly lkd by th stff. Thr bks r pstd, nd thr vds lnkd t tms Dspt th fct tht thr wrks r flld wth cnsdrbl mnt f vnm.

    bsclly lt f my ds r lftd frm ths gntlmn bcs sw bng bng sptlght thm nd bght thr bks. Thy, hwvr, d mk tth fry cmprsns.

  18. OM, i apologize. I’m not the one ommiting them.

    here are some of the things left out from my previous post.

    Multiple A’s E’s I’s O’s U’s and sometimes Y’s

  19. @ Teresa: “Steal the Ark of the Covenant from Aksum? And do what with it? It’s only one of the most recognizable artifacts in the world.”

    Why do you think people steal a Van Gogh they can’t possibly ever show to anybody else?

  20. Nothing new with this claim about the Ark. I was impressed with religious relics when I was a kid, less so when I found out that there were enough pieces of the True Cross floating around at various cathedrals and shrines, and enough nails from the same, to rebuild Noah’s Ark. People want some physical remnant of their god or gods, as if that would somehow validate the beliefs and tenets of their faith, and are quite willing to make up whatever they can’t find.

  21. Om (13): Right off hand, I’d guess it’s because anyone who believes it really is the Ark of the Covenant also believes that trying to steal it can only end in disaster. Also, stealing it would be the world’s worst PR.

    Tim, calm down. It has nothing to do with religion beating out science, or vice-versa. You were being rude, and were way off topic. We already know you don’t like religion. We already know there are unpleasant episodes in the Bible. We do not need to hear about it every damned time some story crops up that touches upon religion.

    I swear, it’s like having someone start ranting about how starships don’t go “whoosh” and explosions don’t go “boom” in space, every time someone mentions astronomy or space flight; or about how dinosaurs and cavemen didn’t overlap, every time someone mentions new findings in paleontology. We knew it when we were twelve. It does not amuse us now.

    Here’s a new question for you: are you willing to cede your shared inheritance of thousands of years of human history and culture, and likewise cede your ability to talk and think about innumerable developments that are going on right now? Because that’s what you do with your standard reaction to religion. You give away vast eons of significant human experience because religion is involved in it, and thereby implicitly affirm that the religious component is the most important thing about it.

    Stop panicking and pull yourself together. Can you not see that it’s simply an interesting fact that the Ethiopians think they have the Ark of the Covenant in their keeping? I promise, it’s entirely possible for you understand it without contracting a case of religion.

  22. Halloween Jack (24), the point at which I realized that the internet doesn’t change everything was when I discovered that in any given week there’ll be at least one fragment of the True Cross for sale on eBay.

  23. the ark itself is interesting. its a piece of history, although that is arguable because its directly involved with the 40 years of wandering in the desert (which is where all those oh so awful things took place) a period which is not really supported by anything but the torah. So like i said, any such object is likely a forgery.

    It may be history, but its psuedo history. In 2000 years maybe enough scientologists will have been around for long enough that incident II in OT3 will seem to have some kind of historical veracity.

    my initial post called this a fiction. People saying that they have something but you can’t see it isn’t anything that should be respected. The fact I actually have russells teapot, and an errant noodle of the flying spaghetti monster are facts that won’t be respectable until i submit them for serious inquiry.

    I know a bunch of end times people who are into the whole ethiopian ark thing (and i’ve known about this particular story for around 10 years)

    to them it lends evidence to the theory that their God is right, gays are bad, and the jews need to get into a war with the surrounding nations so the end of days can happen. Its scary stuff. Sam Harris convincingly lays out how those myths could destroy pretty much everything in his book “The end of faith”

    So if someone says i was childish because i didn’t believe in YHWH. I’ll respond. I hold to the scientific method and i’m proud of that (i was accused of being proud of that)

    I don’t cede anything about religious history, its interesting, and its a great source to borrow from when writing fiction.

    I’m also a bit snippy cause i spent the holiday being creation mind raped by my girlfriends mother. She likes to take every effort to explain how noahs ark could have worked, and how the egyptians lived with dinosaurs. I may have to accept it from a future mother-in-law to keep the peace, but i can certainly respond to a random internet poster.

  24. I guess it was a slow month at Smithsonian Magazine, huh?

    I went, I heard stories, I talked to some old fart, and I saw nothing isn’t exactly journalism for the ages.

    Oh well. The so-called Discovery Channel is now your place to learn how to build custom choppers, decorate your house, and find out everything you wanted to know about Roswell and bigfoot, so I guess this is par for the course.

  25. On a related note, we have the Holy Grail cup at the Main House at Skywalker Ranch. Of course, I suppose that might not be THE Holy Grail, but it is sitting in the same cabinet as Howard the Duck’s guitar, so I’m going to assume it’s the real deal. ;-)

  26. bonnie, do you know some chap named clint? new-ish arrival there, i think he does desktop support?

    my buddy william files works there too, i’m assuming skywalker sound is at the ranch too?

  27. @ Cpt. Tim: I don’t know your friend, but I don’t know everyone here. And yup Skysound is at the Ranch. ;-)

  28. Cpt. Tim (28):

    the ark itself is interesting. its a piece of history, although that is arguable because its directly involved with the 40 years of wandering in the desert (which is where all those oh so awful things took place) a period which is not really supported by anything but the torah.

    I’d be gobsmacked if it turned out to be anywhere near that old. It would be interesting to find out how old it truly is, but I doubt they’re going to let us whittle out a chunk for testing.

    So like i said, any such object is likely a forgery.

    Not a forgery, precisely; I very much doubt there was any intent to defraud. The thing about the Ark of the Covenant is that it’s described in considerable detail in the Bible. Anybody with access to the right materials can make one that fits the spec, so you have to assume that sooner or later, someone will. After that object’s kicked around for a few generations, no one will remember how old it really is. From there, it’s an easy jump to believing it’s the real thing.

    There used to be (maybe still is) the remains of a replica of Noah’s Ark on the side of Mt. Ararat. I forget who made it. Someone pious, at any rate. Later, a bunch of woo-woos found it and were all excited over having “proved” the story of Noah’s Ark.

    By that reasoning, you can also “prove” that King Arthur and his knights existed, since there’s a properly inscribed round table still extant that dates from … the 15th century, something like that? And I have, with my very own eyes, seen the Fairy Flag of the MacLeods; so that must prove that fairies exist.

    It may be history, but its psuedo history.

    Here’s the trick: all history is to some extent pseudo-history; and even blatant pseudo-history is full of information. It tells you that at one point people believed this story, or they thought others would believe the story, or they found it prudent to appear to believe the story; and in any event, they thought that writing it down yielded a sufficiently valuable book that it was worth the work and ink and parchment. An artifact they misidentified or repurposed tells other stories. Even outright fiction will tell you about its creator, its audience, and the context of its performance.

    In 2000 years maybe enough scientologists will have been around for long enough that incident II in OT3 will seem to have some kind of historical veracity.

    I very much doubt that one, too. There’ll be some reinterpretations of its significance, but nobody’s going to think it’s true. That story about the Merovingians being descended from a sea serpent has been around a long time, and it’s not getting a bit more credible, unless you’re David Icke.

    my initial post called this a fiction. People saying that they have something but you can’t see it isn’t anything that should be respected.

    Sure it should. They’re not trying to defraud you. They believe it’s holy, and they don’t look at it either. That’s sincere. It should be respected. ‘

    I’m pretty sure there’s an object in that temple which the Ethiopians sincerely believe is literally the Ark of the Covenant. I don’t believe it myself, but I feel no need to be rude about it. I am a citizen of a secular state that encompasses a great many passionately believed-in religions. Right there, I’m obliged to be polite about other people’s beliefs, and they’re obliged to be polite about mine in return. Granted, many of them aren’t particularly polite; but that just means they’re wrong. It doesn’t mean politeness is unimportant.

    he fact I actually have russells teapot, and an errant noodle of the flying spaghetti monster are facts that won’t be respectable until i submit them for serious inquiry.

    They won’t be facts even then. Neither would the realio-trulio True Cross, or the Holy Grail of Joseph of Arimathea, or the smashed fragments of the first version of the Tablets of the Law which Moses threw down.

    That’s what’s so funny about all this proof-hunting and relic-hunting. Suppose we really did have the True Cross, and the gory nails to go with it, and, might as well throw them in, all the other original Instruments of the Passion. Would they prove that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he died to redeem us? Would having the original Tablets of the Law prove that God wrote them for Moses up on the mountain? They would not. Likewise, a noodle from His Sublime Noodliness wouldn’t prove that the FSM is everything his followers claim. Physical artifacts don’t prove spiritual assertions.

    I know a bunch of end times people who are into the whole ethiopian ark thing (and i’ve known about this particular story for around 10 years)

    People who are into the End Times can always find “evidence” for it. If the Ethiopian Ark of the Covenant didn’t exist, they’d find something else to be their proof.

    to them it lends evidence to the theory that their God is right, gays are bad, and the jews need to get into a war with the surrounding nations so the end of days can happen.

    As I keep saying in arguments, no one was ever unwillingly convinced of the accuracy of The Two Babylons, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, or end-of-days twaddle. They believe it because they want to believe it. If they were bereft of one source, they’d find another.

    Its scary stuff. Sam Harris convincingly lays out how those myths could destroy pretty much everything in his book “The end of faith”

    Here’s where an acquaintance with religious history helps. Congregations and populations are forever deciding that the Last Days are upon them. Sometimes their belief does some damage; far oftener it only damages them. My favorite comment on such beliefs dates from New England’s anomalous “dark day” of 1780:

    The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkable day. Candles were lighted in many houses; the birds were silent and disappeared, and the fowls retired to roost. The legislature of Connecticut was then in session at Hartford. A very general opinion prevailed, that the day of judgment was at hand. The house of Representatives, being unable to transact their business, adjourned. A proposal to adjourn the Council was under consideration. When the opinion of Colonel Davenport was asked, he answered, “I am against an adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles my be brought.”

    (Timothy Dwight, in Connecticut Historical Collectons, 2d ed (1836) compiled by John Warner Barber, p. 403)

    So if someone says i was childish because i didn’t believe in YHWH

    He didn’t single you out. He said “People who pride themselves in their childish understanding.” You’re the one who grabbed the shoe and declared that it fit you.

    I’ll respond. I hold to the scientific method and i’m proud of that (i was accused of being proud of that)

    If the scientific method could talk, it would tell you that it was never intended to be a protocol for interpreting all data and fields of study. You’re granting it magic powers, pretty much exactly the way the original Star Trek series writers gave Mr. Spock’s “logic” magic powers that logic doesn’t possess.

    I’m also a bit snippy cause i spent the holiday being creation mind raped by my girlfriends mother. She likes to take every effort to explain how noahs ark could have worked, and how the egyptians lived with dinosaurs.

    I’m sorry you had what sounds like a very unpleasant experience, but that wasn’t my fault, nor the fault of anyone else on this website, and we don’t deserve to suffer for it.

    This woman’s another example of someone who believes stuff because she wants to believe it.

    I may have to accept it from a future mother-in-law to keep the peace, but i can certainly respond to a random internet poster.

    On your own website, you most certainly can. Here, things are just a touch more constrained.

  29. …CaptKurt, that was evil but to the point. You now owe me a keyboard. “Vowel Movement” indeed :-) :-) :-)

  30. “i spent the holiday being creation mind raped by my girlfriends mother”

    Wow, most of us just spent it eating too much stuffing and gravy. Some people get to have colorful lives.

  31. Thank you, Teresa!

    I have never figured out why a people would make up a story of leaving their homeland because of famine, getting stuck in another country, coming back and having to kill the new inhabitants… All for fun. It’s not like the kind of goofy stories of the Gospels. It’s not like Greek mythology. It’s not like Norse mythology. It’s not like the Kojiki or the Vedas… It’s not like any of the religions of the time, either. It’s a story with names and dates and very few magical events. As a myth, it’s not a very compelling one.

    Furthermore, the idea that, since we can’t find any artifacts in the “desert” where they “wandered,” then it must not have happened, doesn’t make any sense. How many people could we really be talking about? And if they were living a nomadic lifestyle, what do they leave behind that can be quickly picked out of the sand and identified as having belonged to them? And if they were there for 40 years… Out of, what, 3000 years since? Why would we expect to find anything?

    And lastly, how many literate people were around at that time to even take notes? The fact that none of this is corroborated by other sources is unfortunate, but does not in any way disprove the story.

    None of this means “take these ancient texts at face value.” But going the other way–saying that virtually everything written before the Enlightenment was superstitious nonsense–is just as crazy as believing every word of what was written down by openly biased sources.

    I am an agnostic with serious atheist leanings (as in, “I can’t really know, but I’d be shocked if there was a god”), yet I still think these people who deny that there is any historical background to the story of the ancient Jews, or that Jesus (Y’shua) of Galilee existed (and was a pretty popular public speaker who got nailed to a tree for his troubles), are just as kooky as those who believe these stories with all their hearts, minds, and souls. There’s a balance there, folks. Use it.

  32. Steal the Ark of Covenant from Ethiopia? I don’t think so!
    This thing has been there for thousands of years. Normally, anyone could have done anything. This never happen for thousands of years. It is hard to believe those tiny old monks who are physically so weak protected the Ark for this long, one at a time. It should be something else beyond our capacity to know that protects it. So it is better not to try to get into something we don’t even clearly understand.

  33. I understand the need for archeologists & scholars to find proof (or lack of) of the Ark, as it will provide some answers to the many “historical” questions regarding the Bible.

    What surprises me is the continued presence of pastors, evangelists, biblical commentators & such who help push this “search” so they can say– “see, the Ark does exist and we’ve found it, so the Bible IS true.”

    They seem to overlook the passage in Revelation 11:19 that tells them where the Ark is….

    “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ARK OF HIS COVENANT. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.”

    I’d quick looking for it on Earth if I we’re them.

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