The Sign And The Seal

Author of the Month
Journey Through Pakistan (1981) Under Ethiopian Skies (1983) Ethiopia: The Challenge of Hunger (1984) AIDS: The Deadly Epidemic (1986) Lords of Poverty (1989) African Ark: Peoples of the Horn (1990) The Sign and the Seal Fingerprints of the Gods Keeper of Genesis The Mars Mystery Heaven's Mirror Underworld Talisman Master Game Supernatural Entangled War God

The Sign And The Seal (1992)

"Added to the Holy Grail excitement of the quest, he has invented a new genre: an intellectual whodunit by a do-it-yourself sleuth."
The Guardian
The Sign and the Seal

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Sign and the Seal

The Sign and the Seal

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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?

A deeply personal account of a quest for meaning, The Sign and the Seal is a must-read for any interested in the ancient world or in the genesis of Graham Hancock's thinking.


See below for a sample chapter


The Sign and the Seal, Sample chapter: Chapter 1 (cont.)
By Graham Hancock

THE SANCTUARY CHAPEL

Across the road, directly opposite the park of the stelae, stood a spacious walled compound containing two churches — one old and the other obviously much more recent. These, Zelelew told us, were both dedicated to Saint Mary of Zion. The new one, which had a domed roof and a lofty bell-tower in the shape of an obelisk, had been built by Haile Selassie in the 1960s. The other dated back to the mid-seventeenth century and was the work of Emperor Fasilidas — who, like so many Ethiopian monarchs before and since, had been crowned in Axum and had venerated the sacred city despite making his capital elsewhere.

We found Haile Selassie's pretentious modern 'cathedral' as unpleasant as it was uninteresting. We were attracted, however, to the Fasilidas construction which, with its turrets and crenellated battlements, seemed to us 'half church of God, half castle' — and thus to belong to a truly ancient Ethiopian tradition in which the distinctions between the military and the clergy were often blurred.

In the dimly lit interior I was able to study several striking murals including one depicting the story of the life of Mary, another that of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, and a third the legend of Saint Yared — the supposed inventor of Ethiopia's eerie church music. Faded with age, this latter work showed Yared performing before King Gebre-Maskal. The saint's foot had been pierced by a spear dropped from the monarch's hand but both men were so entranced by the music of sistrum and drum that they had not noticed.

Not far from the old church were the ruins of a building that must once have been very extensive but was now reduced to little more than its deeply entrenched foundations. These, Zelelew explained, were the remains of the original Saint Mary of Zion — which had been built in the fourth century AD at the time of the conversion of the Axumite kingdom to Christianity. Some twelve hundred years later, in 1535, it had been razed to the ground by a fanatical Muslim invader, Ahmed Gragn ('the left-handed'), whose forces swept across the Horn of Africa from Harar in the east and, at one time, threatened the complete extinction of Ethiopian Christendom.

Shortly before its destruction, this 'first Saint Mary's' — as Zelelew called it — was visited by an itinerant Portuguese friar named Francisco Alvarez. I later looked up his description of it — the only one that survives:


It is very large and has five naves of a good width and of a great length, vaulted above, and all the vaults are covered up, and the ceiling and sides are all painted; it also has a choir after our fashion . . . This noble church has a very large circuit, paved with flagstones, like gravestones, and it has a large enclosure, and is surrounded by another large enclosure like the wall of a large town or city.(16)


Zelelew rightly dated the start of construction works on the first Saint Mary's at AD 372(17) — which meant that this was quite possibly the earliest Christian church in sub-Saharan Africa. A great five-aisled basilica, it was regarded from its inauguration as the most sacred place in all Ethiopia. This was so because it was built to house the Ark of the Covenant — which, if there was any truth to the legends, must have arrived in the country long before the birth of Jesus and must then have been co-opted by the Christian hierarchy at some point after the new religion had been officially adopted by the Axumite state.

When Alvarez visited Saint Mary's in the 1520s — becoming, in the process, the first European to document the Ethiopian version of the legend of the Queen of Sheba and the birth of her only son Menelik(18) — the Ark was still in the Holy of Holies of the ancient church. It did not stay there for very much longer, however. In the early 1530s, with the invading armies of Ahmed Gragn drawing ever closer, the sacred relic was removed 'to some other place of safekeeping' (Zelelew did not know where). It thus escaped the destruction and looting that the Muslims unleashed upon Axum in 1535.

A hundred years later, with peace restored throughout the empire, the Ark was brought back in triumph and installed in the second Saint Mary's — built by Fasilidas beside the razed remains of the first. And there apparently it stayed until 1965 when Haile Selassie had it moved to the new and more secure chapel put up at the same time as his own grandiose cathedral but annexed to the seventeenth-century church.

It was in the grounds of Haile Selassie's chapel that the guardian monk told me his astonishing story about the Ark and warned me that it was 'powerful'.

'How powerful?' I asked. 'What do you mean?'

The guardian's posture stiffened and he seemed suddenly to grow more alert. There was a pause. Then he chuckled and put a question to me: 'Have you seen the stelae?'

'Yes', I replied, 'I have seen them.'

'How do you think they were raised up?'

I confessed that I did not know.

'The Ark was used,' whispered the monk darkly, 'the Ark and the celestial fire. Men alone could never have done such a thing.'

On my return to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, I took the opportunity to conduct some research into the historical merits of the legend that the guardian had related to me. I wanted to find out whether there was any possibility at all that the Queen of Sheba could have been an Ethiopian monarch. And if there was, then could she really have journeyed to Israel in the time of Solomon — around three thousand years ago? Could she have been impregnated by the Jewish king? Could she have borne him a son named Menelik? Most importantly, could that son have made his way to Jerusalem as a young man, spent a year there at his father's court, and then returned to Axum with the Ark of the Covenant?

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