The old road running west towards Shire Inda Selassie provides access to several worthwhile archeological sites, all within walking distance of town, assuming you’re reasonably fit.

Dungur

Dungur, on the north side of the road 1km west of the town centre, is a razed palace whose near still-evident floor plan indicates that it was among the largest built in the vicinity of Aksum, comprising fifty rooms. Local legend designates it to be the Queen of Sheba’s Palace, but the only excavations to date suggest it was built after the Aksumite elite converted to Christianity.

Gudit Stelae Field

Opposite Dungur, the so-called Gudit Stelae Field comprises hundreds of funereal stelae, most around human height. While the local name suggests a link with the notorious Queen Yodit and a contradictory popular tradition maintains that the tallest stele marks the Queen of Sheba’s grave, broad academic consensus is that this cemetery was contemporaneous with the main stelae field in town, and was reserved for elite citizens who were nonetheless too lowly ranked to warrant burial alongside the emperors and their families.

Ad Hankara and the Godebra Lioness

Some 4km out of town, past Dungur on the Shire Inda Selassie road, Ad Hankara is the hillside site where the main Aksumite stelae were quarried, as evidenced by the partially carved stele left in situ. A few minutes’ walk further uphill, the unique Gobedra Lioness comprises a 3.25m figure of a crouching lion carved in relief onto an upright boulder – created, according to local tradition, when an angry archangel forcefully repelled an attacking lion.

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