I was going to post something on Smithsonian magazine’s cover story, Keepers of the Lost Ark?, but Jim Davila beat me to it. Smithsonian’s teaser says: “Christians in Ethiopia have long claimed to have the ark of the covenant. Our reporter investigated.” Those of a certain age will detect just a trace of Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” in the article’s approach to Christianity. But it’s fairly respectful.
… through the centuries, Ethiopian Christians have claimed that the ark rests in a chapel in the small town of Aksum, in their country’s northern highlands. It arrived nearly 3,000 years ago, they say, and has been guarded by a succession of virgin monks who, once anointed, are forbidden to set foot outside the chapel grounds until they die….
“The ark came here from Aksum for safekeeping from enemies well before Jesus was born because our people followed the Jewish religion then,” he said. “But when King Ezana ruled in Aksum 1,600 years ago, he took the ark back to Aksum.” Ezana’s kingdom extended across the Red Sea into the Arabian peninsula; he converted to Christianity around a.d. 330 and became hugely influential in spreading the faith.
And if you want to read more about the ancient roots of Ethiopian Christianity, check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art and this site, too. The Ethiopian Church’s origins are recounted in the histories of Rufinus and Socrates.