Bazen’s Tomb, Axum, Tigray, Ethiopia, May 2009

Main Chamber, Bazen's Tomb, Axum, Tigray, Ethiopia, May 2009

The interior chamber of Bazen’s tomb. There are seven funerary niches in the walls.

Entrance, Bazen's Tomb, Axum, Tigray, Ethiopia, May 2009

Stairs to the surface. Another four niches are at the base of the stairs, just outside the main chamber–two can be seen in this photo. 

Bazen's Tomb, Axum, Tigray, Ethiopia, April 2009

The side-street leading to Bazen’s tomb, which is under the shelter and marked by the stela on the hill. I hope the image shows how closely the town abuts on the Ancient sites–near the North Stelae Field, people actually have stelae in their backyards and roads (though UNESCO is trying to clear them out).


Bazen’s Tomb is the most notable feature of one of three main (known) concentrations of Ancient burials in Axum, the other two being the North Stelae Field and the ‘Gudit’ Stelae Field. It was extensively looted in ancient times, and the clearing operations in 1954 produced no evidence for dating. A rock-cut trench near the entrance to the tomb contains additional funerary niches, and several shaft-tombs indicate more burials in the area (but remain unexcavated). The original (French) expedition was short on publication of results, but a brief (English) note on the tomb may be found in: Phillipson, David. Ancient Ethiopia: Aksum: its Antecedents and its Successors. London: British Museum, 1998. pp. 95-96.

For the interior photos, I set the exposure for shaft of light, then moved camera left and used an LED torch to paint light into the dark areas of the tomb and the funerary niches. Doubled exposure time when first was not enough. The glow on the house in the exterior photo is a result of the experimentation with Pictorialism I was trying that day. All I did was smear a little petrolatum on the lens (and then clean a lot of it off–it turns out you need almost none), and, voila! instant pictorialism–or not, as the case may be. I am not sure if sharpening the image defeats the point of the smeared jelly, but I am also not sure I am really cut out to be a Pictorialist–only more experimentation will tell.

The Mausoleum,’ North Stelae Field, Axum, Tigray, Ethiopia, May 2009

'The Mausoleum,' North Stelae Field, Axum, Tigray, Ethiopia, May 2009

The Mausoleum, under Stela 1. The side-chambers are all extensively robbed, but only partially-excavated during the Phillipson excavations (1993-7). The fallen stones at the end were a door-frame. The East Tomb (behind the camera) is thought to have been intended to resemble this one, but was never finished.

The sky-lights are, of course, a modern addition.