The British National Army Museum has returned to the Ethiopian government the hair locks of Emperor Tewodros II – more than 150 years after they were taken during the invasion of the African state.

Pieces of the emperor’s hair locks were taken as trophies

Ethiopians sang and danced as the two pieces of hair were handed over to Culture and Tourism Minister Hirut Weldemariam at a ceremony in London.

“It a source of a good fortune and pride to stand here today to receive the remains of one of Ethiopia’s most beloved and admired emperors,” she said.

And she applauded the museum’s “brave and principled decision to bring the emperor’s hair to its rightful home”.

Museum director Justin Maciejewski said the governing body of the museum took into account the “unique” nature of the pieces of hair.

The museum had always considered the hair as an “object” and had to reclassify them as “human remains” in order to hand them over, Mr Maciejewski said.

Ethiopia has not yet said where the locks of hair will be kept

After his army was defeated by British troops under the command of General Napier at the battle of Maqdala in 1868, Emperor Tewodros killed himself rather than surrender.

British troops then cut his hair to keep as a trophy.

The two pieces of hair were handed to the museum by unknown private collectors 60 years ago.

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