Looted ancient Gilgamesh tablet to be returned to Iraq by US this week

WION Web Team
Baghdad Published: Sep 21, 2021, 08:26 PM(IST)

The 3,500-year-old Gilgamesh Dream Tablet. Photograph:( Twitter )

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The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet is to be returned to Iraq by the United States later this week. It is one of the oldest surviving literary works in history. The 3,500-year-old tablet is made of clay and priceless. It features inscriptions in Sumerian, a civilisation of ancient Mesopotamia. After the start of the Gulf War, the treasure was taken from a museum in Iraq. In 2007, it was introduced fraudulently into the US art market. In 2014, the artefact was acquired by the craft retail chain, Hobby Lobby, for display at the Museum of the Bible, in Washington DC

The 3,500-year-old Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, which is one of the oldest surviving literary works in history, is to be returned to Iraq by the United States later this week, the UN agency for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) said on Monday.

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The Gilgamesh Tablet, which is made of clay, is priceless. It features inscriptions in Sumerian, a civilisation of ancient Mesopotamia. After the start of the Gulf War in August 1990, the treasure was taken from a museum in Iraq.

In 2007, it was introduced fraudulently into the US art market. In 2014, the artefact was acquired by the craft retail chain, Hobby Lobby, for display at the Museum of the Bible, in Washington DC, which is funded by the family of Hobby Lobby’s owner, as per news reports.  

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In July, the US Department of Justice announced that it was ordering the official handing over of the tablet, as it had entered the US “contrary to federal law”, noting that federal agents had seized the tablet from the museum, in September 2019.   

At a ceremony at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC on this Thursday, it will now be formally returned to Iraq.

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In a celebratory message, UNESCO’s Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, said, “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 over those who mutilate heritage and then traffic it to finance violence and terrorism.” 

(With inputs from agencies)

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