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  • Place of origin:

    Ethiopia (made)

  • Date:

    before 1868 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Horn, with silver mount

  • Credit Line:

    Presented by the Foreign Office

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This drinking cup of horn mounted in silver was presented to the South Kensington Museum (later V&A) by the Foreign Office in 1868. It had formerly been given to a British civil servant, Hormuzd Rassam, by Salama III, the Abuna, or head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church from 1841 to 1867. Rassam had been serving as a political agent in Aden (Yemen) when he was asked to deliver a letter from Queen Victoria to the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II (Theodore). Frustrated by a previous lack of communication from Victoria’s government, Tewodros had taken a number of Europeans captive, including the British consul, Captain Duncan Cameron, in 1864. The letter conveyed by Rassam sought their release. Rassam, however, was also captured and remained at Tewodros’ Maqdala (Magdala) mountain fortress until 1868 when a British military expedition defeated the emperor’s forces. Shortly afterwards Tewodros committed suicide.

The Abuna, formerly an ally of the emperor, had also been imprisoned at Magdala following a series of disagreements with Tewodros. The gift of this cup to Rassam reflects the esteem he held for his fellow captive. The Abuna died of bronchitis whilst under incarceration.

Physical description

Drinking cup of buffalo horn inverted into a small silver base attached by means of a bolt. Horn sealed by means of a wooden disk

Place of Origin

Ethiopia (made)


before 1868 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Horn, with silver mount


Height: 14 cm, Diameter: 3.5 cm base, Diameter: 9.7 cm neck

Object history note

Accessions register entry: 'Drinking cup. Buffalo's horn, mounted in silver. Presented by the late Aboona Salaman Patriarch of Abyssinia to Mr Hormuzd Rassam. Modern Abyssinian. Presented by the Foreign Office. Date of receipt from stores 13th July 1868.'

Descriptive line

Drinking cup of buffalo horn with silver mount, Ethiopia, made before 1868.


Horn; Silver


Africa; Drinking


Metalwork Collection

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