The Ark of the Covenant is a vessel mentioned in the Old Testament that was used to carry the tablets containing the Ten Commandments. According to the Bible, the Ark was made by Moses at God's command after the Ten Commandments were revealed to him on Mount Sinai. Some biblical scholars believe that there were two such vessels, a temporary one built by Moses, followed by one made by Bezalel, who also built the Tabernacle that housed the Ark. The vessel disappeared after Babylonians destroyed the city of Jerusalem, including the Temple, in 587 BCE, and speculation about its fate has persisted into the present day.
According to records, the Ark of the Covenant was a very impressive structure, covered in gold and topped with elaborate cherubim flanking the mercy seat, which was sprinkled with the blood of a sacrificial bull once a year, on Yom Kippur. It was also steeped in ritual. It was kept in the Holy of Holies, an area of the Temple that only the High Priest was allowed to enter, and only on Yom Kippur. The Ark had gold rings on each side through which a rod was passed when it had to be transported.
The ancient Hebrews carried the vessel with them into battle and consulted it, much like an oracle. The Bible describes the Ark as immensely powerful, able for example to clear obstacles in the path of the traveling Hebrews, burning thorns away from the road and drying up rivers. The Book of Samuel describes a period of seven months during which the Philistines, who had defeated the Israelites in battle, were in possession of the Ark of the Covenant. During this time, the Philistines suffered plagues including boils and mice, which ceased when they returned the Ark.
After the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and plundered in 587 BCE, the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant are no longer mentioned in the Bible. Many historians assume it was destroyed, but some traditions hold that it was removed or hidden before the Babylonians invaded, either by Jews; by Ethiopian Emperor Menelik I, the alleged son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; or through divine intervention. Though various entities have claimed to know the whereabouts of the Ark or to have it in their possession over the centuries, none of these accounts has been definitive. Its fate will likely remain a mystery for the foreseeable future.