Axum or Aksum was an important trading nation in the northern Africa. It was deeply involved in the trade network between India and the Mediterranean. It grew from the ‘’Proto- Axumite period 2th century BC. It was also believed to be an important market place for ivory. The sea routes around the horn of Arabia and the Indian sub-continent were Axum's specialty for nearly a millennium. It is also the alleged resting place of the Ark of the Covenant and the purported home of the Queen of Sheba.

The capital city of the empire was Axum now in northern Ethiopia. Along the hills and plain outside the present day Axum, the Axumites had cemeteries with elaborate grave stones called stelae/obelisks, or obelisks. Other important cities included Yeha, Hawulti, Matara, Adulis, and Qohaito, the last three of which are now in Eritrea.

In the present day Axum there are obelisks. The obelisk, properly termed "stele" or the native "hawilt/hawilti" was carved and erected in the town of Axum (in modern-day Ethiopia), probably during the 4th century A.D. by subjects of the Kingdom of Axum, an ancient Ethiopian civilization.

These stone towers are used to mark graves or represent a building. The longest of the obelisks is 33 meters high.

The stone towers have most of their mass out of the ground, but are stabilized by massive underground counter-weights. The stone was often engraved with a pattern or emblem denoting the king's or the noble's rank.

In the course of time, many of these stelae fell in to the ground due to structural collapse as likely, the case of the great stele measuring 33m or possibly due to earthquake. In the 20th century, of the three major "royal" stelae, only King Ezana’s Stele remained erected.

The today so-called Obelisk of Axum also called The Rome Stele, was looted as prey of war and moved to Rome by the Fascist at the end of 1937, after the Italian conquest of Ethiopia. It is a 1700 year old. It is 24 meters tall weighing 160 tones. It is decorated with two false doors at the base and decorations resembling windows on all sides. Currently in 2008 it is re-erected near King Ezana's Stele.