Ethiopia has demanded a a Dorset auction house return a Bible more than 150 years after it was looted.
The holy book and a set of horn beakers were seized by British forces after the 1868 Battle of Magdala, the Ethiopian embassy said, with the “illegally obtained” items now lots at Busby auctioneers in Bridport.
Returning the looted Bible and beakers would help provide closure on a “painful chapter” of the nation’s history, the the embassy said.
It added that items of an “immense cultural, spiritual, and historical value”, were looted from the Ethiopian empire’s fortress at Magdala.
A statement issued to Busby continued: “The looting of Magdala was a great injustice of the 19th century and remains a scar on the otherwise warm and friendly relations between the people of Ethiopia and the United Kingdom
“The auction of these items is at best unethical, and at worst part of a cycle of dispossession perpetrated by those who would seek to profit from the spoils of war.”
The Bible is believed to date from the 18th century
The embassy has called on Busby to disassociate itself from the lots, which are due to go under the hammer on June 17, after being offered for auction by an anonymous owner.
Officials have further called for the ultimate return of the pieces to their homeland.
The items, collectively estimated to be worth around £700, represented a “small but important piece” of Ethiopian history, embassy officials said.
Busby said it was currently in discussions with the embassy to try to find a solution.
According to auctioneers, the items come from the estate of Major-General William Arbuthnot CB (1838-1893) who served in the British expedition to Abyssinia.
Some of the looted Magdala treasures are housed in museums, including the V&A, while others are understood to be held in private collections across the UK.