Where is the Ark of the Covenant?

Aside from the Holy Grail there is probably no artefact more sought than the Ark of the Covenant. It is said to contain nothing less than the 10 commandments themselves. It vanished in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed the First Temple in Jerusalem.

Over the past year this writer has noted no fewer than three major claims, all linked to Africa, which have been made about the Arks current whereabouts:

Some religious and Ethiopian media sources report that Abuna Pauolos, the patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, has made recent comments that his church has the Ark and is going to announce details at a press conference in Rome. This conference was supposed to have taken place this past Friday (according to the reports), something which obviously didnt happen. Just a few hours ago a report came out that the patriarch was misquoted.

The idea that the Ethiopian church has the Ark is nothing new – there is a long standing belief, in Ethiopia, that the church keeps it guarded by a monk. This story has a sort of taboo about it, everyone believes it but know one can prove it – for religious reasons. According to this Smithsonian story Patriarch Pauolos told a reporter that hehas never seen it (he is forbidden) but that his church does have it under guard..

“Can you believe that even though I’m head of the Ethiopian church, I’m still forbidden from seeing it?” Pauolos said. “The guardian of the ark is the only person on earth who has that peerless honor.”

The reportereventually makes his way to a small chapel in Aksumwhere the guardian of the arktellshim thathe cannot see it either.

Ethiopia was, again, a place picked out as the Arks likely location, post-Babylonian sacking, by Helmut Ziegert of the University of Hamburg. He claims to have found the palace of the Queen of Sheba there, including an altar that he believes held the Ark.

Meanwhile a new book has come out by University of London Professor Tudor Parfitt, which says that the ark made its way to Zimbabwe after the Babylonians attacked. Hecites DNA evidence linking ancient Jews to the Lemba tribe. This tribeknew of a drum like object called ngoma lungundu, an object borne on poles, thatstored ritual objects and was too holy to touch the ground.

So what to make of the latest claims? While Pauolos’ claimseems impossible to prove (although the media reported he is on the verge of doing so),Ziegert and Parfitts ideas cannot be so quickly dismissed.

Ethiopia certainly had contact with the rest of the ancient world. In fact the empire of Axum emerged as a powerhouse in the first century AD, (albeit 600 years after the ark goes missing) occupying land in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Zimbabwe seems a bit far out; not a lot of evidence of contact with the Levant there. But if youre looking for a good place to hide from the Babylonians, there may be no better place.

Perhaps the most important thing to note is where the Ark isnt being placed. Nobody has put out a claim in the past year that they are zeroing in on it in Israel.Perhaps thereason is thatgiven the sheer number of excavations that have taken place over the past five decades, the idea of it being hidden away in some forgotten corner of the country is becoming less and less credible.