Lioness of Gobedra – Ethiopia - Atlas Obscura

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Lioness of Gobedra

According to one local legend, this image was created during a battle between a wild lioness and the archangel Michael. 


A couple of kilometers west of the ancient city of Axum stands the isolated hill of Gobo Dura, alternatively known as Gobedra. The city in Ethiopia is known for stonework, including elaborately carved stelae and a striking work of ancient art known as the Lioness of Gobedra.

It was first described to the western world by German archaeologists in 1913, but had been known to locals for far longer. The origin of the three-meter-long sculpture, engraved on a huge syenite boulder, has been a mystery for quite some time. One local story holds that the carving is a relic from a tremendous battle between a wild lioness and the archangel Michael. It is said that when Michael hurled his opponent into the rock, the impact was so great that the beast’s outline remained. The truth is still a subject of speculation, but the stone lioness is likely thousands of years old.

Since it stands beside the road leading to Axum, it is possible that the rock art was an ancient landmark. This has not been confirmed, and it remains unknown when it was created, who made it, or for what purpose. 

Another engraving that depicts a Greek cross is also visible on the same boulder, also of unknown origins. Nearby, there is an ancient quarry called Wuchate Golo, where the famous stelae in Axum are believed to have been carved. Some uncompleted, abandoned stelae can be spotted here as well.

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