By Damian Zane
BBC, Addis Ababa
A replica of the
Biblical Ark of the covenant, or tabot, has been taken back to Ethiopia and an Irish doctor was responsible.
But Indiana Jones he is not.
Dr MacLennan started shaking when he first saw the tabot
No chiselled jaw line. No leather whip, no pistol.
And this discovery did not require hacking through dense jungle or dodging
British soldiers looted the Maqdala fortress in the north of Ethiopia as
part of a campaign to free some hostages.
Royal treasures along with some
valuable manuscripts and religious artefacts found their way into museums
and private collections.
Doctor Ian MacLennan - an Ethiopia lover and member of the Orthodox church
- came across the unidentified tabot in London - in the middle of an
auction lot of various Ethiopian artefacts.
Doctor MacLennan - who at times shielded his eyes from the gaze of
publicity during the press conference where his discovery was announced -
spoke with awe about his chance find.
"I was absolutely shocked," he said.
Only three of the treasures looted from the Maqdala fortress have been returned
He added that when he sees the tabot
during a church service he feels physically sick, and so he started shaking
when he realised what he was looking at.
Doctor MacLennan bought the tabot - although he is not revealing for how much
- and knew that it had to come back to Ethiopia.
And he brought it here
within two weeks of getting hold of it.
As the tabot is only the third item of the Maqdala treasures to come back to Ethiopia,
there is still a long way to go before full restitution.
Pankhurst, one of the founders of the Afromet campaign, suggested that this
could be the beginning of a trend.
Indreas Eshete, president of Addis Ababa university and chair of Afromet,
used the opportunity to call on the British Museum to return the collection
of Ethiopian manuscripts that were taken from Maqdala and which are
invaluable to scholars here.
So far Ethiopia has had to rely on the generosity of individuals.
For the past 15 years the campaign for the
return of these treasures - Afromet - has been calling on the British to
hand them back.
The finder of the lost ark - Doctor MacLennan - did not want to get caught
up in a political argument.
But looking down at his feet he said that now
he just wants to go home and feel happy that the people of Ethiopia have
got one of their raided tabots back.