Thursday, June 17, 2021

Maqdala artifacts to be repatriated to Ethiopia

ETHIOPIC WATCH: Looted Maqdala objects—pulled from rural English auction at the last minute—will be returned to Ethiopia. Busby auction house confirms it has "negotiated a settlement" after Ethiopian officials requested the return of items stolen by British troops in a brutal 1868 battle (Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper).

The looted items were an eighteenth-century Coptic Bible and three horned beakers of unspecified date. Arguably this post should have been headed Coptic Watch, but the story also bears on Ethiopic matters

The artifacts are not particularly valuable. Their total estimated value was £400-£700. But their repatriation establishes a precedent that could have wider implications.

There are some 350 manuscripts in the British Library and at least five at the University of Edinburgh which were also looted at the Battle of Maqdala. They include two copies of the Ethiopian national epic the Kebra Negast and a copy of the Book of Isaiah, all presumably in the Ethiopic language. So far, requests for their repatriation to Ethiopia have been declined. It will be interesting to see if this latest development has any effect on that decision.

For background on the manuscripts and artifacts looted at the Battle of Maqdala, see here and links. For PaleoJudaica posts involving the Kebra Negast, see here and here and links.

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