Ethiopian Psalms to be returned
By Hugh Macleod
30 September 2003
An ancient, handwritten copy of the Bible's Book of Psalms is to
be returned to Ethiopia 135 years after it was looted by British
soldiers during the bloody siege of Magdala city.
The 300-year-old book, 7in square and written in the old Ethiopian
language of Ge'ez, was part of a huge haul taken by troops in the
1868 invasion of Ethiopia to free Western diplomats imprisoned by
Emperor Theodore II.
After the battle, the soldiers loaded 200 mules and 15 elephants
with gold crowns, swords, altar slabs and manuscripts, then burned
the city to the ground.
Most of the plunder made its way into institutions such as the
British Museum and Oxford's Bodleian Library. But a large number of
smaller items were taken home by individual soldiers and ended up in
private collections. The holy book, which will be returned to the
Ethiopian studies department of Addis Ababa University this week, was
bought from a private collector for £750 after being spotted in a
book dealer's catalogue by members of Afromet, the Association for
the Return of the Magdala Ethiopian Treasures.
The return will increase pressure on the British museums and
galleries which still hold illuminated manuscripts and other looted