The UNESCO World Heritage Center has signed a contract with Lattanzi SRL, an Italian construction company, to begin the reerection of the Axum obelisk, the official Ethiopian News Agency reported on Wednesday.
The total budget for the project is over 2.8 million U.S. dollars, funded by the Italian government who also financed the transportation of the obelisk and related studies, the news agency quoted a UNESCO press release as saying.
Lattanzi has begun mobilizing its staff and equipment, and shall start the works as of mid July, the report said.
The works will take place in two segments throughout a period of 18 months, according to the UNESCO press release. During the first segment, a foundation for the obelisk will be built as well as a temporary steel tower for lifting the separate parts of the obelisk. In the second phase, the steel structure will be put in place and the obelisk lifted and placed in position.
Finally, the surface of the obelisk will be cleaned and restored, and the steel support structure dismantled and removed.
The Ethiopian government plans to mark the end of their Ethiopian calendar year 2000 celebrations, held on Sept. 12, 2007, by inaugurating the standing obelisk, it said.
Also known as Stela 2, it is the second largest stela on the Axum World Heritage site in Ethiopia. Transported to Rome by the troops of Mussolini in 1937, it was returned by the Italian government in April 2005. Weighing 150 tons and 24 meters high, the obelisk was cut into three pieces and transported by Antonov airplanes to north Ethiopia's Axum town. The obelisk was deposited in the stelae field near its original location.
The obelisk is around 1,700 years old and has become a symbol of the Ethiopian people's identity.
The ruins of the ancient city of Axum mark the location of the Kingdom of Axum, the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia.
The massive ruins of Axum date from between the 1st and the 13th century A.D. The monolithic stelae were erected during the third and fourth centuries A.D. as funerary markers for deceased members of its elite. Axum was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1980.