Gilgamesh Dream Tablet to be returned to Iraq

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The United States will return a 3,500-year-old clay tablet that was looted from an Iraqi museum in 1991.

The rare cuneiform tablet, believed to have been created during the sixteenth century B.C., includes inscriptions in Sumerian, a civilization of ancient Mesopotamia, and features a portion of a poem from the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” one of the world’s ol (UNESCO)

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the formal handover of the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet will take place during a ceremony on Thursday at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. 

The rare cuneiform tablet, believed to have been created during the 16th century B.C., includes inscriptions in Sumerian, a civilization of ancient Mesopotamia, and features a portion of a poem from the "Epic of Gilgamesh," one of the world's oldest known religious texts.

US SEIZES $1.6 MILLION ‘EPIC OF GILGAMESH’ TABLET FROM HOBBY LOBBY

Hobby Lobby purchased the tablet in a private sale at a 2014 auction hosted by Christie's. The tablet was set to be displayed at the Washington, D.C.-based Museum of the Bible, which is funded by the family of the arts-and-crafts chain’s founder, David Green. 

However, the tablet was later seized by the Department of Justice in 2019 after it was discovered to have been illegally shipped to the U.S. in 2003. According to the DOJ, the artifact was sold several times with a "false letter of provenance," which claimed it was legitimately obtained at an 1981 auction before laws were passed restricting the importation of Iraqi artifacts.

Hobby Lobby, who consented to the forfeiture, has since filed a lawsuit against Christie's, accusing the British auction house of hiding the tablet's origins and seeking to recover the $1,694,000 it paid. In addition, Hobby Lobby previously agreed to pay a $3 million settlement with the Justice Department in 2017 and said it would return thousands of other artifacts it purchased that were also illegally imported. 

Green announced in March 2020 that he would return 5,000 papyri fragments and 6,500 clay objects with "insufficient provenance" to the governments of Egypt and Iraq. 

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In July, the U.S. government returned 17,000 artifacts that were discovered to have been looted from Iraq.

"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. "This exceptional restitution is a major victory over those who mutilate heritage and then traffic it to finance violence and terrorism.

Representatives for Hobby Lobby and Christie's did not immediately return FOX Business' requests for comment.

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