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Iraq to receive looted ancient Gilgamesh tablet this week

A 3,500-year-old Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, one of history’s oldest surviving literary works, may be returned to Iraq by the United States this week, the UN agency for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) announced on Monday. The ancient clay tablet made by Gilgamesh is priceless. Sumerian, the language of ancient Mesopotamia, is found on the inscriptions. In August 1990, the treasure was taken from an Iraqi museum after the Gulf War began.

It was introduced fraudulently into the US art market in 2007. According to news reports, Hobby Lobby acquired the artifact in 2014 for display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, which is financed by the family of Hobby Lobby’s founder. In July, the Department of Justice announced it was ordering the official handover of the tablet, citing that it had entered the country in violation of federal law, noting that federal agents had seized it from the museum in September 2019. 

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On Thursday, it will be returned to Iraq in a ceremony at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. As UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a celebratory message, ‘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. This exceptional restitution is a major victory against those who mutilate heritage and then use it to finance violence and terrorism’.


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