British Museum launches investigation into 150-year-old Ethiopian artifacts

Secrets revealed: British Museum under investigation over seizure of Ethiopian treasures. —PA

The British Museum is under scrutiny as the Information Commissioner opens an investigation into allegations that it insults public perception of its collection of Ethiopian sacred artefacts, which have been hidden from the public for a century and a half. The Guardian reports.

According to the museum, the sacred object, which consists of 11 wooden and stone altarpieces, was stolen by British troops after their victory at the Battle of Makdala in 1868 and has never been used in the museum’s exhibition. For them, the curators and trustees of the museum had no authority to handle the exhibits for testing or inspection, so it was downgraded to sacred status.

For years, there have been calls for the artifacts found to be returned to Ethiopia. For example, in 2019, Ethiopia’s culture minister came up with the idea during a visit to the museum.

The complainants escalated the issue by filing a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which argued that the museum had not provided all the information they needed regarding the tablet’s deliberations under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

A Freedom of Information investigation was conducted in August 2023 by Heritage of Return, the entity responsible for cultural repatriation. In addition, transparency advocates argue that the museum failed to provide detailed information, that some sections were missing or was overly censored. The museum review approved by Return to Heritage confirms and confirms the previous decision.

Provisions of the British Museums Act 1963 prohibiting the disposal of objects have now expired and Return the Heritage is demanding the return of the artefacts. These exclusions allow goods that are “unsuitable for retention” to be surrendered.

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The stubborn issue has received increasing attention recently, with Westminster Abbey jokingly agreeing to return a single taboo that had been on the cathedral’s altar for many years, although this was not without doubt. However, the museum has remained silent on the issue as they have not had any communication regarding the investigation.

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By Ali Raza

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