L’Obélisque d’Axoum

Abstract de l’article publié dans la Revue Technique 01/2012

The Re-erection of the Stele of Axum by Prof. Eng. Giorgio Croci

The stele of Axum was transported by ship from Axum to Italy in 1937 and rebuilt in the same year in Piazza di Porta Capena in Rome.

The Stele, collapsed and broke up into five huge blocks about one thousand years ago  as consequence of an earthquake, laying on the ground in Axum.

The pieces of the Stele where shipped by Massawa in Eritrea, then unloaded in the Harbour of Napoli, transported by truck to Rome and eventually re-erected in Rome.

In 1997 a mixed Italian-Ethiopian Commission was created with the final goal of detailing how to ship the Stele back to Axum.

The operation involved three phases:

  1. the dismantling in Rome
  2. the transportation
  3. The rierection in Axum

1)      the dismantling in Rome required first of all the realisation all around the Stele of a provisional steel structure in order to prevent any further damage and, at the same time, giving the support to a series of jacks that were used to apply the necessary forces to separate the Stele in the joints, filled with cement and bronze pivots during the erection in Rome.

2)      After that the Stele was separated in three main blocks along the joints, as said above, a very serious problem was the transportation because on the one hand it was impossible to follow the same way used during the transportation in Rome (these roads don’t exist any more), on the other hand, the weight of the single block was larger than the load capacity of any aircraft, even of the Russian Antonov, the biggest in the world.

Anyway, after long discussions and evaluations it was decided to follow a series of precautions in relation to the fact that the length of the landing strip in Axum was too short. In addition, there wasn’t any automatic instrumentation for the navigation and the high temperature reduced the density of the air and therefore the bearing capacity of the aircraft.

All this makes the flight risky and for this reason it has been an intermediate landing in Bengasi to check in easier condition, the real situation.

At the end, all the operation was successful and the stones were placed on the site of Axum.

3)      The third phase required to build a hige steel castle with a moving bridge crane, able to lift up the three blocks and at the same time to connect them with carbon fibres, put inside the drilled block in order to provide the seismic strength necessary to protect the Stele from the earth phenomena.

Finally the 4th September 2008, at the end of the works, there was the official ceremony and the Stele was standing again after thousand years.

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