Since its disappearance, the Ark entered the domain of legend, and some have claimed to have discovered or have possession of the Ark. Several possible places have been suggested for its location.
Mount Nebo: 2 Maccabees 2:4-10, contains a reference to a document saying that the prophet Jeremiah, “being warned by God” before the Babylonian invasion, took the Ark, the Tabernacle, and the Altar of Incense, and buried them in a cave on Mount Nebo (Jordan) (Deut. 34:1), informing those of his followers who wished to find the place that it should remain unknown “until the time that God should gather His people again together, and receive them unto mercy.”
Ethiopian Orthodox Church: The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant or tabot in Axum. The object is now kept under guard in a treasury near the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, and used occasionally in ritual processions. But versions of the Axum tabot are kept in every Ethiopian church, each with its own dedication to a particular saint, most popularly Mary, George and Michael.
The Kebra Nagast is Ethiopia’s greatest national document, composed to legitimise the new royal line established in 1270 by claiming its descent from Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and contains a reference to the Ark of the Covenant being brought to Ethiopia by Menelik. On 25 June 2009, the patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, Abuna Paulos, said he would announce to the world the next day the unveiling of the Ark of the Covenant, which he said had been kept safe and secure in a church in Axum, Ethiopia. The following day, on 26 June 2009, the patriarch announced that he would not unveil the Ark after all, but that instead he could attest to its current status. This event was known as ‘The Great Ark Fail’.
Southern Africa: The Lemba people of South Africa and Zimbabwe have claimed that their ancestors carried the Ark south, calling it the ngoma lungundu or “voice of God”, eventually hiding it in a deep cave in the Dumghe mountains, their spiritual home. On 14 April 2008, Tudor Parfitt, taking a literalist approach to the Biblical story, described his research into this claim. He says that the object described by the Lemba has attributes similar to the Ark. It was of similar size, was carried on poles by priests, was not allowed to touch the ground, was revered as a voice of their God, and was used as a weapon of great power, sweeping enemies aside.
In his book The Lost Ark of the Covenant (2008), Parfitt also suggests that the Ark was taken to Arabia following the Second Book of Maccabees, and cites Arabic sources which maintain it was brought in distant times to Yemen. One Lemba clan, the Buba, which was supposed to have brought the Ark to Africa, have a genetic signature called the Cohen Modal Haplotype. This suggests a male Semitic link to the Levant.
Lemba tradition maintains that the Ark spent some time in Sena in Yemen. Later, it was taken across the sea to East Africa and may have been taken inland at the time of the Great Zimbabwe civilization. According to their oral traditions, some time after the arrival of the Lemba with the Ark, it self-destructed. Using a core from the original, the Lemba priests constructed a new one. This replica was discovered in a cave by a Swedish German missionary named Harald von Sicard in the 1940s and eventually found its way to the Museum of Human Science in Harare. Parfitt had this artifact radio-carbon dated to about 1350 AD, which coincided with the sudden end of the Great Zimbabwe civilization.
Parfitt suggests that the Ark he found was the descendant of the Ark of War and that a wooden chest being used as a weapon was replicated at least once, and possibly many times. Parfitt offers the suggestion that the wooden ark may always have been a drum as well as a weapon of some sort, like the ngoma. It was often found in musical processions. Parfitt, however, offers no explanation of the original principal contents of the Ark, the stone tablets.
Djaharya Egypt: Michael Sanders claims to have found the location of the Ark Of the Covenant’s ‘stones’ in Djaharya near an ancient temple created by Ramses III (now an old tower in ruins).
Languedoc, France: Several legends hold that the Ark was carried home to Languedoc by Templars returning from the Crusades.
United Kingdom: In 2003, historical author Graham Phillips traced the route of the Ark through research using Biblical texts as being taken to Mount Sinai in the Valley of Edom by the Maccabees, along with other religious treasures. Phillips claims it remained there until the 1180s, when Ralph de Sudeley, the leader of the Templars who apparently found the Maccabean treasure at Jebel al-Madhbah, returned home to his estate at Herdewyke in Warwickshire, UK, taking the treasure with him.
Ireland: During the turn of the 20th century British Israelites carried out some excavations of the Hill of Tara in Ireland looking for the Ark of the Covenant – the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland campaigned successfully to have them stopped before they ruined the hill.
Shikoku, Japan: Local claims exist that it is hidden within limestone caves under Mt. Tsurugi.