Ta’aka Mariam is one of Aksum’s underground buildings. The German archeological team of 1906 uncovered it before it was subsequently refilled. It is a beautiful architecture complex of sophistication. Considered Aksum’s largest palace, Ta’aka Mariam is a building of 100m-by-125 m. Munro-Hay et al., however, disagree with Ta’aka Mariam being larger than Enda Sem’on or Enda Mikael. For them, Ta’aka Mariam exhibits kinship with the Dungur Palace, both of which have “four-towered central blocks surrounded by an outer four-wing structure.” Nevertheless, the elite building is characterized by its spacious rooms, wide corridors, beautiful decoration and intricate design. It is a multi-storey castle that was supposed to be built when the Aksumite Empire was at its zenith.
Beneath the surface of the main road leading from Aksum to Gondar lies the structure. Before they built the asphalt road on top of the otherwise physically fragile but archeologically significant structure, the Italian invaders were well aware of the substructure’s existence.
This is the smallest of the Deutsche Aksum-Expedition’s three elite dwelling complexes, measuring 120x 80 m with a 24x 24 m central pavilion, six times the size of the contemporary palace at Hadramawt in South Arabia. On a high platform reached by grand flights of dressed stone stairs, the central structure of nine rooms was raised. As described by the merchant of the 6th century, Kosmas Indikopleustes, the corner rooms, two of which had staircases to at least one upper level, project beyond the main volume to resemble towers. The main rooms were generous in size, the largest being 7x 6 m, to support the roof or upper floor would have had timber or stone pillars.
The outer range of buildings formed a series of courtyards around the pavilion, together housing the public rooms in the center’s service functions. One of the column bases of fluted octagonal shape can be seen in the Ezana Gardens, discovered in a small portico in the southern wing. The perimeter was built in the classic Axum style, with stepped rubble walling layered between massive dressed corner stones with slate course, some of which are still visible. The walls would have been given additional strength by regularly spaced abutments, ten on each of the long sides and six to seven on the shorter.