A journalist and travel writer in the employ of the Ethiopian government in the early 1980's hears mention that the great lost treasure of the Jewish race - the ark of the covenant in which Moses placed the ten commandments - is reputed to be held in a church somewhere in Ethiopia ...
The same man later sees the Hollywood blockbuster 'Raiders of the lost Ark', and an idea begins to find shape in his mind which will take some years to come to fruition ...
In 1989 at Chartres Cathedral, France, he is drawn to a small, seemingly insignificant carving which mysteriously hints that the tale he heard in Ethiopia may be true - that that may, in fact, be the last resting place of the Ark ...
The man is Graham Hancock - and the story of his quest to discover the truth behind the legends is the breathtaking real life adventure of The Sign and The Seal. the book that launched Graham into the bestseller lists worldwide.
Following obscure clues found within ancient stories and Biblical tales, through the occult knowledge gleaned from the coded Grail epic of Wolfram Von Eschenbach, and the obscure and secretive workings of the enigmatic Knights Templar, Graham traces the Ark from its source in ancient Egypt, to Jerusalem, and from there to its final resting place in Africa.
This is a tale worthy of Indiana Jones himself! A real modern day quest set against the lost knowledge of the ancient world and the political intrigues of the contemporary one.
Here is the first inkling that the technology of ancient Egypt, that produced the Ark, was something mysterious and powerful - a legacy, perhaps of something older and forgotten - here is the seeds that would flower in Fingerprints of the Gods. Was Moses an initiate of the lost Egyptian wisdom - the lost wisdom of the survivors of a cataclysmic flood?
The Sign and the Seal, Sample chapter: Chapter 1 (cont.)
By Graham Hancock
1983: A COUNTRY AT WAR
On 28 May 1991, after
years of brutal fighting, the government of Ethiopia was finally
toppled by a formidable coalition of rebel forces in which the Tigray
People's Liberation Front had played a leading role. When I went to
Axum in 1983, however, the TPLF was still a relatively small guerilla
force and the sacred city, although besieged, was still in government
hands. Other than myself, no foreigners had been there since 1974
when a team of British archaeologists had been driven out by the
revolution that had overthrown Emperor Haile Selassie and that had
installed one of Africa's bloodiest dictators, Lieutenant-Colonel
Mengistu Haile Mariam, as Head of State.
Lamentably the free
access that I was granted to Axum did not result from any special
enterprise or initiative of my own but from the fact that I was
working for Mengistu. As a result of a business deal that I was later
bitterly to regret I was engaged in 1983 in the production of a
coffee-table book about Ethiopia — a book that Mengistu's
government had commissioned in order to proclaim the underlying unity
in the country's cultural diversity, and to emphasize the ancient
historical integrity of the political boundaries that the rebels were
trying so hard to redraw. It had been agreed before I began work that
there would be no overt promotion of the government's cause, and it
was written into my contract that no particular individuals (Mengistu
included) would be praised or vilified. Nevertheless I was under no
illusions about how the project was viewed by senior figures in the
regime: they would not have footed the bills, or permitted me to
visit historic sites forbidden to others, if they did not think that
what I was doing would be helpful to them.
Even so it was by no
means easy for me to get to Axum. Intense rebel activity along the
main roads and around the sacred city itself meant that driving was
completely out of the question. The only option, therefore, was to
fly in. To this end — together with my wife and researcher
Carol and my photographer Duncan Willetts — I travelled first
to Asmara (the regional capital of Eritrea) where I hoped that it
might be possible for us to hitch a ride over the battle lines on one
of the many military aircraft stationed there.
Standing on a high and
fertile plateau overlooking the fearsome deserts of the Eritrean
coastal strip, Asmara is a most attractive place with a markedly
Latin character — not surprising since it was first occupied by
Italian forces in 1889 and remained an Italian stronghold until the
decolonization of Eritrea (and its annexation by the Ethiopian state)
in the 1950s.(8) Everywhere we looked we saw gardens erupting with
the colour of bougainvillaea, flamboyants and jacaranda, while the
warm, sunny air that surrounded us had an unmistakable Mediterranean
bouquet. There was also another element that was hard to miss: the
presence of large numbers of Soviet and Cuban combat 'advisers'
wearing camouflage fatigues and carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles
as they swaggered up and down the fragrant pastel-shaded boulevards.
The advice that these
thickset men were giving to the Ethiopian army in its campaign
against Eritrean separatists did not, however, appear to us to be
very good. Asmara's hospitals were crammed to bursting point with
casualties of the war and the government officials we met exuded an
air of pessimism and tension.
Our concerns were
heightened a few nights later in the bar of Asmara's rather splendid
Ambasoira Hotel where we met two Zambian pilots who were on temporary
secondment to Ethiopian Airlines. They had thought that they were
going to be spending six months expanding their practical experience
of commercial flying. What they were actually doing, however, was
ferrying to Legend injured soldiers from the battle fronts in Tigray
and Eritrea to the hospitals in Asmara. They had tried to get the
airline to release them from this hazardous duty; on checking the
small print of their contracts, however, they had discovered that
they were bound to do it.
After several weeks of
almost continuous sorties in aged DC3 passenger planes converted to
carry wounded troops, the two pilots were shell-shocked, shaky and
embittered. They told us that they had both taken to the bottle to
drown their sorrows: 'I can't sleep at night unless I'm completely
drunk,' one of them confided. 'I keep getting these pictures passing
through my mind of the things that I've seen.' He went on to describe
the teenage boy who, that morning, had been dragged aboard his
aircraft with his left foot blown away by a mine, and another young
soldier who had lost half his skull after a mortar bomb had exploded
nearby. 'The shrapnel wounds are the worst . . . people with huge
injuries in their backs, stomachs, faces . . . it's horrible .. .
sometimes the whole cabin is just swilling with blood and guts... we
carry as many as forty casualties at a time — way above the
operating limits of a DC3, but we have to take the risk, we can't
just leave those people to die.' each day, the other pilot now
added. In the past week he had been twice to Axum and on both
occasions his plane had been hit by machine-gun fire. 'It's a very
difficult airport — a gravel runway surrounded by hills. The
TPLF just situp there and take pot-shots at us as we land and take
off. They're not fooled by the Ethiopian Airlines livery. They know
we're on military business . .
Overjoyed to have
found some sympathetic non-Russian and non-Cuban foreigners to share
their woes with, the Zambians had not yet asked us what we were doing
in Ethiopia. They did so now, and seemed highly amused when we
replied that we were producing a coffee-table book for the
government. We then explained that we needed to get to Axum
'Why?' they asked,
'Well, because it's
one of the oldest and most important archaeological sites and because
it was there that Ethiopian Christianity first got started. It was
the capital for hundreds of years. Our book's going to look really
sick without it.'
'We might be able to
take you,' one of the pilots now suggested.
'What — you mean
when you next go to pick up wounded?'
'No. You definitely
wouldn't be allowed on those flights. But a delegation of military
top brass are supposed to be going there the day after tomorrow to
inspect the garrison. Maybe you could hitch a ride then. It would
depend on what sort of strings you're able to pull back in Addis. Why
don't you check it out?'