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Britain to negotiate return of Ethiopian Tabots

Ethiopia wants the British Museum to return a collection of sacred tablets, that are currently kept locked in a vault at the museum.

Big News Network [1]

Friday 5th November, 2004
Brits negotiate future of sacred tablets

The British Museum is negotiating the return of tablets known as tabots that represent the Biblical Ark of the Covenant and are sacred to Ethiopian Christians.

The Art Newspaper said Thursday the tabots were part of the Maqdala treasures seized in an 1868 punitive expedition to Ethiopia — then known as Abyssinia — by British troops that led to the suicide of Emperor Tewodros. Much of the loot wound up in the British museum in what one former director described as a less than glorious episode.

The present government of Ethiopia has long demanded return of 11 tabots the museum keeps out of sight, even to curators, in a locked basement room. Since earlier this year there have been discussions that might lead to the loan of the tabots to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in London as an alternative to returning them to Ethiopia, the report said.

The museum owns about 150 objects looted at Maqdala, all of which were discussed with officials in Addis Ababa when British Museum director Neil MacGregor visited there early this year. The Ethiopians believe the actual Ark of the Covenant, a chest made to contain the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments, is now housed in a church in Aksum in the north of the country.