A 3,500-year-old clay tablet that was looted from an Iraqi museum 30 years ago has returned to Iraq.
Known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, it was acquired by the Hobby Lobby company in 2014 for display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington. DCUS authorities seized it in 2019, saying it had been stolen and should be returned.
This comeback takes place Thursday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. He is one of a group of approximately 17,000 looted antiquities that the United States has agreed to return to Iraq. Some went back there in July.
“By returning these illegally acquired objects, the authorities here in the United States and in Iraq are allowing the Iraqi people to reconnect with a page in their history,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.
The tablet measures 5 by 6 inches. It features inscriptions in Sumerian, the language of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization. The text includes a section from the Epic of Gilgamesh, a poem said to have been written at least 4,000 years ago.
During the Gulf War in 1991, Saddam Hussein’s regime lost control of parts of Iraq and several regional museums were looted with historical artifacts, possibly including tablets.
In 2001, he went to a London antiques dealer, according to the US Department of Justice. Then it moved on to antique shops in the United States and then to London where, in 2014, auction house Christie’s sold it to Hobby Lobby for $ 1.67 million.
Hobby Lobby sued Christie’s, claiming the auction house provided false documents about the tablet’s history. Christie’s said she was unaware the documents were fake at the time.
The owners of Hobby Lobby are also the founders of the Bible Museum. The museum opened in 2017. Hobby Lobby president Steve Green began collecting artifacts in 2009 for the museum, but admits he knew little about the collection at first and didn’t know much about the collection. is not sufficiently assured that he did not buy stolen items.
In 2017, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a fine of $ 3 million as part of a settlement with the Department of Justice and agreed to return thousands of illegally imported clay tablets.
Green announced in March 2020 that he would return 11,500 items to the Iraqi and Egyptian governments.
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