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Ethiopia, Africa




Ink on parchment


6 7/8 ✕ 3 7/8 in. (17.5 ✕ 9.8 cm)

Credit Line

Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020

Accession Number



Purchased by David P. Harris possibly from Maria Teresa O’Leary (Nuevo Mundo) in Alexandria, Virginia on February 28, 1976.


There is damage to both sides of the parchment, particularly on the upper half of the back side, which was exposed, and therefore more vulnerable when the scroll was rolled closed. The lower edge has a series of punctures.


Brad Hostetler, and Lynn Jones, eds., Ethiopian Objects in the Blick-Harris Study Collection: Art, Context, and the Persistence of Form, Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture 8, no. 1 (Spring 2022): pp. 5–25, 112–27, 165–76, 191–93, cat. 34.


This fragment of parchment is likely the upper portion of a healing scroll. The upper edge of the parchment is straight and has two horizontal slits, which could be threaded with a string to keep the scroll rolled closed. This scroll would have been created by a däbtära using the same ritual described for the other healing scroll (2020.209).

This fragment retains an image of an angel, brandishing a sword in his right hand and holding a scabbard in his left. The figure is outlined in black, with pink used for the skin, and for details of the tunic and scabbard. The face is abstracted and dominated by large eyes, which gaze outward at the viewer. The figure’s long neck is marked by three horizontal lines. Both the scabbard and the lines of the angel’s tunic continue beyond the torn lower edge of the scroll. There are no inscriptions that identify the figure; it could be any of the seven archangels venerated in the Ethiopian Church, or an unnamed guardian angel.

The angel motif is standard on healing scrolls, the iconography of which alternates between geometric designs, magical letters, and figural images of archangels, angels, and saints. These figures threaten demons by brandishing weapons or being depicted fighting demons. The large eyes are a typical feature of healing scrolls. The angel’s gaze is meant to both deter demons and to focus the healing power of the scroll on the person who gazes at it.Scrolls are rarely unrolled and viewed; instead they are more often kept, tightly rolled, in cylindrical leather cases. The owner wears the case daily around their neck or chest as a protective measure.Both scrolls in the BHSC were likely used in this way, as the parchment remains tightly rolled today.

Caitlin Mims, in Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture 8, no. 1 (Spring 2022): 191.

2020.208.pdf (356 kB)
Purchase Receipt and Supporting Materials

2020.208-back.jpg (3580 kB)
Reverse view


Image Location