Editor’s Note: In the fifth and final part of a series, “The
Searchers,” Corbett details the theories of such Ark of the Covenant “explorers” as
Graham Hancock, Ron Wyatt and finally, the late Emperor Haile Selassie’s
favorite great-grandson, Prince Stephanos (Stephen Mengesha).
“Time has woven the reality of the truth.” — Anonymous.
After the Corbett-Harron expedition returned from war-torn Ethiopia
1990, I spent some time developing a number of newspaper stories for the
Toronto and Ottawa Suns on the controversial subject of the Ark of the
Covenant being in the dusty town of Aksum in the northern Tigre
By early 1992, Graham Hancock, the former East Africa correspondent
Economist, released a book, The Sign and the Seal, telling his personal
journey in search for the most coveted religious object in man’s
Later, I had the chance to meet Hancock during his book tour stop in
We compared notes in an out-of-the-way coffee shop while being
by his publicist and a female photographer, and, instead of disagreeing,
this investigative reporter came away with the same conclusions that it
was, indeed, taken from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem to Aksum. However,
Hancock’s story takes a twist in the road and ends up on an obscure
of Lake Tana.
“Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of
saith the Lord.”
— Amos 9:7 [whose ministry lasted from 783 to 743 BC)
Hancock wrote: “By the eighth century BC, when Amos was prophesying,
not conceivable that there could already have been a flow of Hebrew
migrants southward through Egypt and into the highlands of Abyssinia?
“… The Kebra Nagast (‘Glory of Kings’) … dated from the 13th
and had originally been written in Ge’ez. It contained the
earliest-surviving version on the story … about the Queen of Sheba and
King Solomon, the birth of their son Menelik (‘the son of the wise
and the eventual abduction of the Ark of the Covenant from the First
According to an Ethiopian monk, who was reputedly the guardian of the
of the Covenant, “… It was Azarius (son of Zadok the High Priest of
Israel), not Menelik, who stole the Ark of the Covenant from its place
the Holy of Holies in the Temple. … And it was thus that it was
Ethiopia, to the sacred city (Aksum) … and here it has remained ever
Of all the many traditions that Hancock had encountered in Ethiopia,
wrote, by far the purest and most convincing had indicated that the Ark
the Covenant had been brought first of all to Lake Tana, where it had
concealed on the island of Tana Kirkos. … The relic had remained on
island for 800 years before it had finally been taken to Aksum at the
of Ethiopia’s conversion to Christianity. Since that conversion had
occurred around AD 330, the implication of the strong folk memory
on Tana Kirkos was that the Ark must have arrived in Ethiopia in 470 BC
thereabouts — in other words about 500 years after Solomon, Menelik and
the Queen of Sheba.”
For Hancock it was a mystical and spiritual journey, for when he was
introduced by an interpreter to the aging priest outside the steps to
sanctuary chapel at St. Mary of Zion in Aksum, he was asked about his
character and his motives: from which country had he come, what work did
do there, was he a Christian, what was it that he wanted from him?
Hancock answered the inquisitor.
Finally, the priest shook hands with him and with the formalities
Hancock asked: “I have heard of an Ethiopian tradition that the Ark of
Covenant is here, in this chapel. I have also heard that you are the
guardian of the Ark. Are these things true?”
The nearly blind monk answered: “They are true.”
When Hancock questioned the traditions of Aksum, the priest
“People may believe what they wish. People may say what they wish.
Nevertheless, we do possess the sacred Tabot, that is to say the Ark of
Covenant, and I am its guardian. …”
The wrinkled holy man considered it a great honor that he had been
to guard the Ark and told Hancock that he had been nominated with the
words of his predecessor and that when he himself lay on his death bed
turn would come to nominate his own successor.
“What qualities will you look for in that man?” asked Reporter
“Love of God, purity of heart, cleanliness of mind and body.”
“Other than you, is anyone else allowed to see the Ark?’
“No. I alone may see it.”
In ancient lore, the Ark was used during church functions, however,
modern times, a replica had been paraded on Timkat. Priests and other
dignitaries of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church took a replica of the
powerful golden container through the streets of Aksum on Tuesday,
19, this year. There were no incidents reported.
While this series has centered on Ethiopia, there are other theories
the ultimate destination of the Ark, including it being destroyed by the
Babylonians for its gold (2 Chronicles 36:19).
Then there’s the Prophet Jeremiah, who supposedly hid it in a cave on
Nebo. (Apocryphal, Second Maccabees).
Another popular one has it hidden in a chamber underneath Solomon’s
in Jerusalem. Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Rabbi Yehuda Getz, the rabbis in
charge of the Western Wall area, are convinced that the Ark has been
in a cave in the Temple Mount directly under the site of the Holy of
Holies, since the time of King Josiah.
Controversial “explorer” Ron Wyatt explained that in 1978 he was
along the Calvary Escarpment when something happened to him that has, so
far, only occurred once in his life. His left arm raised up and pointed
the escarpment and his voice said, “That’s Jeremiah’s Grotto, and the
of the Covenant is buried in there.”
Wyatt and his sons came back several times over the next few years
spent hundreds of hours digging at that location. He finally found and
entered the cave that contained the Ark of the Covenant on Jan. 6, 1982.
On this trip his two sons became sick and had to return home early.
continued working in the cave system with only a young Arab boy as his
assistant. He found a narrow vertical crevice in a rock wall, too narrow
for him to fit in, but, with a little work, it was “just right” for his
helper. The boy squeezed into the opening. But before Wyatt could hand
a flashlight to look around with, the lad came scurrying out of that
chamber as fast as he could, saying, “What’s in there? What’s in
and he was scared to death. Apparently, the young boy refused ever again
enter that cave system. He now lives outside Israel, and because of
governmental visitor regulations he cannot re-enter the country.
During Wyatt’s excavations in this area, he supposedly found the
of Christ’s crucifixion. Christ was crucified up against what is known
the Calvary Escarpment, very near Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. When
died on the cross, “the rocks were rent.” That earthquake split the
escarpment. There is a vertical crack directly behind where the cross
placed. When Wyatt excavated down about 14 feet below present ground
at that location, he found the cross hole. It was 13 inches by 14 inches
width, and 23 1/2 inches deep, and there was a stone “plug” in the top
it that was “squarish” and about eight inches thick. But most
there was a very sizable split in the rocks on the left side of the
When Christ died on the cross and the Centurion stabbed him in the
with his spear, Christ’s blood and water flowed out. Christ’s blood,
according to Wyatt, went into the large crack in the ground at the base
the cross and it continued underground through the split in the rocks
caused by the earthquake and the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
went upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant that was buried in
cave that is about 20 feet right below the crucifixion site.
Wyatt continued his story by saying he entered that cave at 2 p.m. on
afternoon of Jan. 6, 1982.
“There was very little room to crawl around because the things placed
the cave left only about a foot and a half of crawl space between them
the ceiling of the cave. There were rocks on top of boards, on top of
When Wyatt shone his flashlight down between the rocks, he said he
much of the wood and furs were rotted away, and he saw “gold” glittering
down underneath the rocks. Then, at the far side of the cave he saw a
The lid of the box was cracked, and the smaller portion of the lid
moved aside a short distance; then Wyatt realized what had taken place
there nearly 2,000 years ago. Overwhelmed with emotion and double
pneumonia, Ron passed out for 45 minutes in that chamber.
His “discovery” has never been scientifically verified.
Meanwhile, although the Ethiopian claims have certainly been
Prince Stephanos (Stephen Mengesha), the favorite great grandson of
Haile Selassie, firmly reiterated his thoughts on the Ark in a 1990
CORBETT: What makes you so sure about the Ark?
PRINCE: A lot of people are still seeking evidence. However, for
there’s absolutely no doubt that it did happen. … There’s no way, in
belief, that this oral tradition could have been a bluff for so many
without some significant event like the coming of the Ark to Ethiopia.
couldn’t create a fictitious event.
CORBETT: The belief in the Ark is like a rope through Ethiopian
PRINCE: To me to tamper with this Holy of Holies and to tamper with
traditions by using modern methods of speculation is desecrating the
and the faith of millions of Ethiopians and that is significant. That’s
something that I would jealously guard against and speak out against.
CORBETT: Is God’s Presence in the Ark or is it a container for the
of Moses or what?
PRINCE: The Tablets of Moses came directly from God, and if we
that, then definitely God’s Word and God’s Power are in it. Again the
can go in a zillion ways in speculations and that’s why without faith
can’t really understand the significance of the Ark and that is my
That’s mine, too.
If you would like to be a team member of a 1999 expedition to Israel
Aksum in October, please contact Corbett at [email protected] by May
Only serious applicants will be considered.