Ethiopia, the Aksum Obelisk, and the Return of Africa’s Cultural Heritage

Ethiopia, for over a century, has been involved in what is now termed the question of the return of Africa’s cultural property. The country was looted twice in the last century, firstly in 1868, when the British expedition against Tewodros II looted crowns, crosses and religious manuscripts from his mountain fortress of Maqdala; secondly during the Italian occupation in 1936-1941, when the invaders seized crowns, State papers, and one of the famous early fourth-century obelisks of Aksum. The looting of Maqdala was followed, in the ensuing century, by the British government’s gradual restitution to Ethiopia of several looted artifacts – though the lion’s share still remains in Britain. Italy’s defeat in the Second World War was followed in 1947 by an Italian Peace Treaty with the United Nations, in which Italy agreed to return all the loot taken from Ethiopia. Most, but by no means all, articles were returned. The Aksum obelisk remained in Rome, but its return is expected in the near future. Notes, ref., sum.

Title: Ethiopia, the Aksum Obelisk, and the Return of Africa’s Cultural Heritage
Author: Pankhurst, Richard
Year: 1999
Periodical: African Affairs: The Journal of the Royal African Society
Volume: 98
Issue: 391
Period: April
Pages: 229-239
Language: English
Geographic term: Ethiopia
External link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/723628
Abstract: Ethiopia, for over a century, has been involved in what is now termed the question of the return of Africa’s cultural property. The country was looted twice in the last century, firstly in 1868, when the British expedition against Tewodros II looted crowns, crosses and religious manuscripts from his mountain fortress of Maqdala; secondly during the Italian occupation in 1936-1941, when the invaders seized crowns, State papers, and one of the famous early fourth-century obelisks of Aksum. The looting of Maqdala was followed, in the ensuing century, by the British government’s gradual restitution to Ethiopia of several looted artifacts – though the lion’s share still remains in Britain. Italy’s defeat in the Second World War was followed in 1947 by an Italian Peace Treaty with the United Nations, in which Italy agreed to return all the loot taken from Ethiopia. Most, but by no means all, articles were returned. The Aksum obelisk remained in Rome, but its return is expected in the near future. Notes, ref., sum.