Stolen Treasure Returned to Ethiopia

The precious relic, a psalter written in Geez, belonged to Emperor Menelik, who ruled the country from 1889 to 1913.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, June 3, 2010

New York (Tadias) – A century-old prayer book stolen from Ethiopia has been returned by the American collector who held it, Agence France-Presse reports.

The book written in Geez belonged to Emperor Menelik, who ruled the country from 1889 to 1913.

“Gerald Weiner is the largest collector of Ethiopian antiquities in north America. I went to him and said they belonged to Ethiopia,” Steve Delamarter, an Old Testament scholar who made contact with the U.S. collector, told AFP. “To my surprise, he thought it was a good idea and decided to act in good will,” he said, before handing the relic to Addis Ababa University officials at a ceremony late Wednesday.

The report adds: “Delamarter said he was still working with the Ethiopian authorities on ways of repatriating all the items in Weiner’s collection. Officials say thousands of Ethiopian historical objects remain in the hands of foreign collectors and museums in Western countries due to centuries of poor management which led to looting.”

Historian Richard Pankhurst, longtime advocate for the return of stolen Ethiopian antiquities, welcomed the news, but he accused Britain of still hogging more than 500 ancient manuscripts, paintings, and an 18-carat gold crown looted by British troops in 1868 following the defeat of Emperor Tewodros.

“It took 15 elephants and 200 mules to bring the loot. It was unjustified and even sacrilegious as they were taken from a church,” Pankhurst said. “There have been requests for their return, but the answers from British authorities are always not satisfactory.”

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2 Responses to “Stolen Treasure Returned to Ethiopia”

  1. 1 antonio Jun 3rd, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Its good that Ethiopia received one of her treasures back but it continues to amaze me how the European countries try to justify keeping stolen goods. They did it to Egypt, they did it to Nigeria, Benin and many other countries. Who do they think they are to hold property of other countries? I swear sometimes it (infuriates) me.

  2. 2 Joke Jun 4th, 2010 at 2:40 am

    That was nice to return it back. At the same time, I am very sad because we don’t know how to properly handle these relics. In Ethiopia we don’t have trained art conservators to preserve and restore historic and artistic paper and parchment. Just take a look at the photo on how the person is holding the book without any glove and without any support from the backside. From this picture alone I can imagine how they treat it. Is it just good to return it to Ethiopia without having proper conservators to preserve and restore historic and artistic works?

    Thank you

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