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Saturday, 14 September, 2002, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Plea for return of Ethiopian plunder
Ethiopian priest Arch Mandrite Abba Markos (centre) carries the tabot
A ceremony was held to handover looted artefacts
The son of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst is visiting Edinburgh to call for the return of a looted drum to Ethiopia.

The 16th century ceremonial drum was taken to Britain at the same time as a sacred tablet, or tabot, which was recently returned to Ethiopia.

The drum was part of a horde of treasure seized by British soldiers more than 130 years ago from Emperor Theodore II's mountain fortress at Magdala.

It was split up and shared between three regiments, including the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, as a battle trophy.

Sylvia Pankhurst and her sister Christabel
Sylvia Pankhurst was from a family of suffragettes

Dr Richard Pankhurst, who lives in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, is heading an international campaign for the return of the plunder.

He plans to contact Dragoon officers while he is in Edinburgh.

The suffragette's son said: "This drum is the only one of its kind.

"It is part of Ethiopia's crown jewels and as such should be returned to its proper place in Ethiopia."

Sylvia Pankhurst was a Manchester-born socialist feminist who braved hunger strikes and force feeding during the campaign to get social change and the vote for women at the start of the 20th century.

Fighting fascists

She became involved in Ethiopian affairs when she travelled to the country to campaign against its occupation by the Italian fascists in 1935.

She campaigned for the restoration of Ethiopian independence, first against the Italians and then against the British, and was given a state funeral by the country when she died in 1960.

Her son will also be raising the subject of the looted Ethiopian artefacts in a lecture at St John's Episcopal Church in Princes Street on Saturday.

Earlier this year the church returned a sacred tabot to Ethiopia which was taken in the same invasion

The tabot - a 6" square carved with an Ethiopian inscription - represents the ark of the covenant and is sacred to Ethiopia's Orthodox Christians.


It is part of Ethiopia's crown jewels and as such should be returned to its proper place in Ethiopia.

Dr Richard Pankhurst
After it was returned, campaigners discovered that the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards - which has headquarters in Edinburgh Castle - were one of the regiments involved in the 19th century Ethiopian campaign.

Other treasures taken from the Magdala included hundreds of ancient illuminated manuscripts, gold and silver crowns and around 10 scared altar slabs, representing the Ark of the Covenant.

The loot was loaded on to 15 elephants and 200 mules and later auctioned to British soldiers to raise prize money.

Much of it has ended up in the British Museum, the Royal Library at Windsor Castle and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Dr Pankhurst and a number of other Ethiopian scholars formed AFROMET - the Association for the return of the Magdala Ethiopian Treasures - to put pressure on Britain for the return of Ethiopia's cultural heritage.

See also:

27 Jan 02 | Scotland
05 Dec 01 | Scotland
20 Jul 01 | Africa
22 Jun 01 | Africa
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