Join AFROMET | Return Treasure | Sign Petition
AFROMET - The Association for the Return of The Maqdala Ethiopian TreasuresDetail from the amulet of Emperor Tewodros
 Home | The History | The Treasure | News & Events | About Us
the treasure
Panel of tablet-woven silk

This ecclesiastical cloth, part of a triptych that would have screened off the inner sanctum of a church, is currently on display as part of the British Museum's African collection.

The British Museum website's entry on the cloth reads:

From Gondar, Ethiopia, late 18th century AD

Panel of tablet-woven silkThis cloth was designed as the central section of a triptych which would have screened the inner sanctum, maqdas, from the main body of an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian church.

Larger image of silk panel (large file)

The practice of adorning the interiors of churches with silk hangings was widespread in the Byzantine empire - a tradition that survived longer in Ethiopia than it did in the rest of Christendom.

This is the largest tablet-woven textile in the world. Tablet weaving is the process whereby the 'sheds' through which the weft passes are created not by heddles, but by perforated cards strung on the warp threads. This panel would have required over 300 tablets, through which each one of four warp threads would have passed.

Though a profoundly Christian artefact, the panel was probably created by a guild of Muslim or Jewish (Falasha) weavers in the city of Gondar. It is woven entirely of imported Chinese silk, and the figures that appear on it are depicted in such detail that the soldiers can be seen to be carrying firearms of Indian manufacture. The event commemorated is probably the lying-in-state of King Bakaffa (reigned 1722-30). Bakaffa, Mentaub, his wife, and their young son Iyasu are all depicted wearing the plaited band of blue silk, matab, which was a symbol of their Christian faith.

Width: 63 cm
Length: 306 cm

Collected by Sir Richard Rivington Holmes, Abyssinian Expedition

Ethno 1868,10-1.22

Room 25, Sainsbury African Galleries, case 8, no. 5

C.J. Spring and J. Hudson, North African textiles (London, The British Museum Press, 1995), pp. 125-29

C. Spring and J. Hudson, Silk in Africa (London, The British Museum Press, 2002), pp. 12, 48-49

Current location

The British Museum
treasure count:
468 items
still missing
10 items
(still counting)

search treasure
recent discoveries

Cameronians' cross
Reed shirt
Lancaster miscellaneous
Halifax miscellaneous
Throne cloth
Dundee scroll

full list of

missing treasure
returned treasure

see more

human remains
military hardware
personal effects
religious artefacts
royal regalia

current locations

The British Library
The British Museum
Duke of Wellington's Regimental Museum Halifax
Dundee University Museum
Edinburgh University Library
The John Rylands Uni Library
Lancaster Museum & Priory
National Archives of Scotland
The Sch°yen Collection
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Windsor Castle

Other locations

powered by

Movable Type 2.63