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
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
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
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
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
'Yes', I replied, 'I
have seen them.'
'How do you think they
were raised up?'
I confessed that I did
'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?