Ethiopian looted artefacts withdrawn from UK auction

Image: Ethiopian embassy.

Two artefacts looted from Ethiopia by colonial-era British troops have been withdrawn from auction.

The Ethiopian bible with a leather satchel and a cross, and a set of horn beakers had been due to be auctioned today by Busby auctioneers in the UK.

The items were taken away during the battle of Maqdala in 1868 – in which British forces looted Emperor Tewodros’ fortress of Maqdala residence and surrounding areas and left with manuscripts, crowns, crosses, chalices, religious icons, royal and ecclesiastic vestments, shields and arms.

The Ethiopian embassy in London discovered the items and wrote to the auctioneer making a formal request that they be withdrawn – to be later repatriated to Ethiopia.

The embassy said it had reached a deal with the auctioneer. A Busby spokesman was also quoted by the UK’s Guardian newspaper confirming it had resolved the matter with the Ethiopian embassy as well as with the seller of the items.

Ethiopia’s deputy head of mission in London, Beyene Gebremeskel in a statement said they were looking forward to the return of the items of “immense cultural, spiritual, and historical value to Ethiopians”.

“It is our belief that all Maqdala objects must find their way home to bring closure to generations of Ethiopians dispossessed of their heritage and aggrieved by this painful chapter in our shared history,” the statement added.

The Ethiopian government has for years called for the return of the items.

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