October 19, 2004

Raiders Got It Wrong

United Kingdom: If you thought the Ark of the Covenant was buried deep in some anonymous warehouse in Washington DC, you're wrong. It's actually in a basement of the British Museum.

On a shelf in a locked basement room underneath the British Museum, are kept 11 wooden tablets; they are covered in purple velvet. And no one among the museum's staff — including Neil MacGregor, the director — is permitted to enter the room.

The tablets — or tabots — are sacred objects in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the most important of the 500 or so priceless Magdala treasures, looted by Britain from Ethiopia in 1868 and now held in this country. For almost two decades, the only people allowed access have been Ethiopian church clergy; it is considered sacrilegious for anyone else to see them.

Amid growing calls for the return of the treasures, the British Museum has moved them from an anonymous storage site to its Bloomsbury main building and announced that it is considering loaning them to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in London on what would be a permanent basis. They are regarded as representing the original Ark of the Covenant, which housed the Ten Commandments and the Orthodox Church has been lobbying for their return — or at least easy access to them — for more than 50 years.
Handing them over — even on loan — would be considered a major breakthrough and increase pressure for the remainder to be returned.

If you were wondering how the British Museum got hold of the tablets, it was by the time honoured tradition of looting.

The acquisition of the Magdala treasures was a murky episode in the museum's history. In 1867, a British force was sent to Ethiopia to free hostages taken by Emperor Tewodros; after defeat at the Battle of Magdala, he committed suicide. Extensive looting of the imperial treasures ensued and Richard Holmes, a museum curator sent specifically to locate items, obtained 80 objects taken by British soldiers; others found their way to the museum through bequests.

As well as the tabots, the haul included ceremonial crosses, chalices, processional umbrella tops, textiles and jewellery.

Hidden in a British Museum basement: the lost Ark looted by colonial raiders - Independent, 19th October 2004.

2 TrackBacks

On a shelf in a locked basement room underneath the British Museum, are kept 11 wooden tablets; they are covered in purple velvet. And no one among the museum's staff — including Neil MacGregor, the director — is permitted to... Read More

Indy never thought to look there from The Dragon Page Radio Talk Show on October 22, 2004 04:24

Wouldn't you know it? Indiana Jones spent all that time chasing Nazis all over the four corners of the planet... Read More

Leave a comment

Evangelism, witnessing and similar activitites go by one name here—advertising, and is no different from spam for viagra, penis enlargement products and pornography. We do not take advertising. If you want to advertise your imaginary friend, please spend your own money on your own web space to do so. Any attempts to use the comments section for advertisements will be deleted, and the perpetrator barred, unless they are particularly stupid, in which case I reserve the right to pinch an idea from Teresa Nielsen Hayden and delete all the vowels.

Allowed HTML: a href, b, br, p, strong, em, ol, ul, li, blockquote, q, pre. If your name has accents in it, things will (hopefully!) work better if you use the XHTML entities for those letters. The same applies if you are using a word processor to compose your comment, then copying and pasting the text—either turn off curly quotes and avoid using em-dashes, or edit your comment after pasting to get rid of them. Garbled comments usually get deleted.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Red Wolf published on October 19, 2004 10:33 AM.

Bargain of the Day: L'Chaim! was the previous entry in this blog.

Bargain of the Day: magic pumpkins is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Resources

About this site
Contact the Prattle
Ego Corner

The Pagan Prattle
c/o P.O. Box 666
Edinburgh EH7 5YW
Scotland

Syndication

Licence

Creative Commons License
The original material in this weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.