UK Auction House Cancels Contested Sale of Ethiopian Shield

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Auction House

An auction house in the United Kingdom has withdrawn from an auction scheduled for February 29, 2024, featuring an Ethiopian shield, which was looted during an expedition in the 19th century, according to Addis Ababa. Ethiopia had demanded that the process be halted and the item repatriated to its country of origin.

A controversial auction has been canceled: an Ethiopian shield from the 19th century was set to be put up for auction on Thursday morning in the North of England.

According to Addis Ababa, the object was looted during a battle by British troops. Ethiopia had demanded that the sale be stopped and the shield repatriated to its country of origin.

The attention of Ethiopian authorities was drawn to lot 903 in the catalog of auctioneers Anderson and Garland. Estimated between 950 and 1400 euros, it is a 19th-century circular shield, decorated with floral motifs and metal bands.

According to the Ethiopian Heritage Authority, it was looted on April 13, 1868, at the Battle of Magdala between British troops and Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II. Victorious, General Robert Napier allegedly ordered his men to burn the city and loot as many objects as they could…

In 2021, Addis Ababa took similar action
The current owner of the shield is unknown. Some experts believe that a British soldier acquired it and the item remained in his family.

The Ethiopian Heritage Authority wrote to Anderson and Garland. For them, the item was “illegally acquired in the context of a punitive expedition. We urge you to cancel the sale, organize its restitution, and repatriate it,” the letter states.

In 2021, Addis Ababa took similar action during an auction in the south of England of items also stolen from Magdala. Under diplomatic pressure, the sale was canceled. Cups, letters, and the hair of a prince were returned to Ethiopia in early January. It was a “diplomatic victory,” Addis Ababa declared at the time.


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