Two artefacts that were taken looted during colonial-era by British forces in Ethiopia have been withdrawn from auction after the Ethiopian government appealed to an auction house selling them to “stop the cycle of dispossession”.
The Ethiopian bible with a leather satchel and a cross, and a set of horn beakers that had been due for auction by Busby auctioneers in the UK before the embassy’s intervention.
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The Ethiopian embassy in London discovered the items and wrote to the auctioneer making a formal request that they be withdrawn – to be later repatriated to Ethiopia.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 confirmed 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 looted items.