With cases of cultural property, the case itself often becomes what defines people’s knowledge of the property. They don’t know about the artefacts, but they know about the disputes surrounding them. This is certainly true of the Elgin Marbles, & many people could not tell you exactly where they originated from, or even what they look like.
Islam Online has an article that helps to explain who created the Axum Obelisks & why they are important in their own right.
Maybe one day long after the Elgin Marbles are returned, people will once again be able to study them for what they are, rather than studying why they are where they are.
Axum: The Ancient Civilization of Ethiopia
By Kate Prendergast
July 07, 2005
Recent celebrations in Ethiopia no doubt aroused the envy of the Greeks, who have been campaigning fruitlessly for years to convince the British government to return the Elgin marbles. The altogether luckier Ethiopians have, in contrast, finally persuaded the Italians to return a 1,700-year-old stone obelisk looted by Mussolini nearly 70 years ago during the fascist occupation of Ethiopia (BBC News). The obelisk is the finest of more than 100 stone monoliths which stood in Aksum (Axum), capital city of the ancient Aksumite kingdom that flourished in northern Ethiopia between 100-600 CE and which, according to legend, was where Menelik I, son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, brought the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem. As yet, however, few know much about this ancient African civilization, and its role in the development of trade, arts, and religion in the centuries that also witnessed the spread of the Roman Empire, the birth of Christianity, and the rise of Islam (Munro-Hay).
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