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Tabot (Ge'ez ታቦት tābōt, sometimes spelled tabout) is a Ge'ez word referring to a replica of the Tablets of Law, onto which the Biblical Ten Commandments were inscribed, used in the practices of Orthodox Tewahedo Christians in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Church. Tabot can also refer to a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. The word tsellat (Ge'ez: ጽላት tsallāt, modern ṣellāt) refers only to a replica of the Tablets, but is less commonly used.
According to Edward Ullendorff, the Ge'ez (an Ethiopian Semitic language) word tabot is derived from the Aramaic word tebuta (tebota), like the Hebrew word tebah. "The concept and function of the tabot represent one of the most remarkable areas of agreement with Old Testament forms of worship."
A tabot is usually a 15-centimetre (6-inch) square, and may be made from alabaster, marble or wood from an acacia tree, although longer lengths of upwards of 40 cm (16 inches) are also common. It is always kept in ornate coverings to hide it from public view. In an elaborate procession, which has often reminded literate onlookers of the sixth chapter of 2 Samuel where King David leads the people dancing before the Ark, the tabot is carried around the church courtyard on the patronal feast day, and also on the great Feast of Timket (known as Epiphany or Theophany in English). David Buxton describes one such procession, on the festival of Gebre Menfes Qidus:
Although Ethiopia was never colonised by the British, many tabots were looted by British soldiers during the 1868 Expedition to Abyssinia, also known as the Battle of Magdala, and is a cause of anger among Ethiopians.
The return in February 2002 of one looted tabot, discovered in the storage of St John's Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, was a cause of public rejoicing in Addis Ababa. Another was returned in 2003 after Ian McLennan recognised the ancient tabot at an auction in London. He bought it and donated it to the government of Ethiopia.