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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 10:34 GMT
Ethiopian artefact found in cupboard
Reverend John McLuckie holding the tabot
Reverend McLuckie recognised the tabot from his time in Ethiopia
A sacred Ethiopian artefact has been discovered in a church cupboard in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh - 130 years after it was seized by British soldiers in a bloody siege.

The wooden tabot, or tablet, represents the ark of the covenant and is sacred to Ethiopia's Orthodox Christians.


I was just going through the cupboard looking for something else and, suddenly, there it was

Reverend John McLuckie
It will be handed back in a special ceremony due to be held early next year.

The Ethiopian Charge d'Affaires in London, Fisseha Adugna, said the country had lost much of its inheritance and described the handing back of the tabot as a significant act.

The tabot is a 6" square carved with an Ethiopian inscription.

Looted

It was found in a cupboard at Edinburgh's St John's Episcopal Church

The minister who found it, Reverend John McLuckie, had lived in Ethiopia and recognised its religious significance.

He checked with experts and discovered it had been stolen by British soldiers after they had invaded Ethiopia, which they called Abyssinia, in the 1860s after a diplomatic dispute.

Ethiopian tablet
The tablet can only be seen by priests

Rev McLuckie said: "It was very exciting because I knew it was an object of great significance and holiness.

"I was also slightly surprised that we had one and slightly shocked that we should be keeping it in a cupboard when it is something of such significance to Ethiopian Christians."

The country has been campaigning for the return of hundreds of precious manuscripts, crowns and other sacred items ever since.

Church officials will hand the tabot back at a ceremony due to take place in Edinburgh at the beginning of next year.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Amber Henshaw
"It's a tale of treachery, murder and stolen treasure"
See also:

20 Jul 01 | Africa
Italy to keep Ethiopian monument
22 Jun 01 | Africa
No return for Ethiopian treasure
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