Investigation launched against British Museum for concealing Ethiopian shrines

Investigation launched against British Museum for concealing Ethiopian shrines

UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) started an investigation in relation to the British Museum, which is suspected of hiding Ethiopian shrines and information about them. We are talking about the so-called tabots - tablets located in the altar of churches of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and which are copies of the tablets of the Testament.

The ICO investigation centers on 11 wooden and stone tablets that were captured by British soldiers in Ethiopia after the Battle of Maqdel in 1868. The relics were given to the British Museum, but have never been publicly displayed since.

It is reported that even the curators of the museum do not have access to the tablets: they are stored in a special room, where only ministers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church can enter. Moreover, the museum does not publish any information about them. The fact that employees could not touch or study tabots was justified by the fact that they were sacred objects. In 2019, Ethiopia demanded that Britain return them. Returning Heritage, a non-governmental organization that campaigns for the return or reimbursement of cultural property seized during colonial wars, said it had repeatedly sent requests to the British Museum for information about the tabots but had not received meaningful responses. Now Returning Heritage has lodged a complaint about this with the ICO, saying the British Museum is refusing to disclose information of public importance.

According to Returning Heritage, which conducted a legal review, the British Museum in most cases cannot decide on the return of certain cultural property to other states - this would require the adoption of a new law. However, there are exceptions to the law, and according to the organization, tabots fall within them because in more than 150 years of storage the museum has never exhibited or studied them.

Yana Rozhdestvenskaya

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