Saving Aksum Stelae May Cost Close to 4mln Euro
Art & CultureNews

Saving Aksum Stelae May Cost Close to 4mln Euro

By Mhret G/Kristos

AKSUM – Renovation works on the granite stelae, royal tombs in the historic city of Aksum, could cost close to four million euro, authorities estimate.

The stelaes, whose history ruins date back to the ancient Kingdom of Aksum, are the pride of Ethiopians and a popular tourist attraction in the nation.

But now, one of these stelaes has tilted backwards, raising fears that the stele – with 24 meters height and 160 tons weigh – could eventually fall down.

Government has set up a committee of experts to look into the problem, and save the stelae from collapse.

“The government is trying to find resources of finance for this and that of Lalibela, another major historic heritage at risk,” said Hirut Kassaw, ministry of Culture and tourism.

“These endangered stelaes need our attentions and we have to protect them,” she told a meeting at the University of Aksum on how to preserve the stelae and other historical heritages at risk.

Experts say the stelae, known as Stelae Three, has been unstable for more than ten years.

In 2015, authorities re-installed another stelae, which was repatriated from Rome Italy, after it was looted by the troops of the fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

“Movement of heavy machineries and cranes during the re-installation process has destabilized the foundation of stelae three,” said Tekle Hagos, archaeology and heritage management at Addis Abeba University.

Takle also fears the increase in the level of the water under the basement may aggravate the situation.

“If it continues to increase, the water may erode the soft part of the basement, which could further destabilize it,” he added.
A recent research by Aksum University into the stelae three found that it is tilting further to backwards.

Originally, architects from Italy projected for the whole project to cost only 500,000 Euro.

Not doing the work on time has increased the damage as well as the cost, said Tekle, who recommended for the re-installation work to start promptly.

Authorities are now saying the whole re-installation process may cost 3.9 million Euro and take 11 months, but refused to jolt into the work until Ethiopia’s longest rainy season, which will start next month, is over.

The whole process needs more research, finance as well as painstaking work, and that’s why we should take time, said Hailu Zeleke, director of cultural heritage conservation directorate at the ministry.

An Italian company, which is now tasked to save the obelisk, is expected to come up with the plan to carry out the work carefully.

The Italian construction company ‘Lattanzi S.r.l’ has previous experience of similar project and took part in re-installing work of the obelisk that was repatriated from Rome in 2005.

“We are in talks with their experts on how to reinstall stelae three carefully,” Hailu added.

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