From Enno Littmann, Deutsche Aksum Expedition (Berlin, 1913)

Centuries of tradition guide a religious procession in Aksum, Ethiopia, in this photo from about 1905. After reenacting, at a nearby river, the Israelites’ crossing of the Jordan, the procession returns to the courtyard of the Church of Mary Zion, seen here. In front of the large umbrella, left of center, a priest balances on his head a chest containing a replica of the Ark of the Covenant—the chest that held the Ten Commandments.

The real Ark seems to have disappeared during the Babylonian Exile (586–538 B.C.E.), for the Bible does not mention it as an item brought back from the Exile. According to an ancient Ethiopic tradition, however, the Ark lies in the Church of Mary Zion, brought there by Menelik, son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.