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30.09.2003 - By HUGH MACLEOD
An ancient handwritten copy of the Bible's Book of Psalms is to be returned to Ethiopia 135 years after it was stolen by British soldiers during the bloody siege of Magdala city.
The 300-year-old book - written in the ancient Ethiopian language of Ge'ez - was part of a huge haul of loot taken by British troops during the 1868 invasion of Ethiopia to free Western diplomats imprisoned by Emperor Theodore II.
After the battle the soldiers loaded hundreds of mules and elephants with gold crowns, swords, altar slabs and manuscripts, before burning the city to the ground.
The bulk of the plunder made its way into institutions like the British Museum and Oxford's Bodleian Library. But a large number of smaller items were taken home by individual soldiers and ended up in private collections.
The holy book, which will be returned to Ethiopia later this month, was bought from a private collector for (pounds sterling)750 after being spotted in a bookdealer's catalogue by members of AFROMET - The Association for the Return of the Magdala Ethiopian Treasures.
The return will increase pressure on the British museums and galleries that still hold onto hundreds of illuminated manuscripts and other plundered items taken during the siege.
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