UNESCO kicks off project for Italy to return Ethiopian artifact
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Centre has signed a contract with an Italian construction company to re-erect the Aksum obelisk on its original location in Ethiopia beginning this July.
Measuring 24 metres high and weighing 150 tonnes, the obelisk was transported to Rome by Mussolini’s troops in 1937.
In April 2005, the Italian Government – after UNESCO’s mediation – decided to return the artifact to Ethiopia.
Due to its enormity, it was cut into three pieces before being flown to Aksum, in the country’s north-east, where archaeological digs were underway to prepare for the installation.
Italy is providing the over $2.3 million cost of the project, slated to take 18 months.
The 1,700-year-old obelisk symbolizes the Ethiopian people’s identity, and the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. Currently an archaeological park with ruins dating between the 1st and 13th century A.D., Aksum was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1980.