• By The Financial District

'Gilgamesh' Clay Tablet Bought By Hobby Lobby Going Back To Iraq

Updated: Sep 25

A 3,500-year-old clay tablet discovered in the ruins of the library of an ancient Mesopotamian king, then looted from an Iraqi museum 30 years ago, is finally headed back to Iraq, Colleen Long reported for the Associated Press (AP).

Photo Insert: The $1.7M cuneiform tablet known as the Gilgamesh Dream Table seized by the U.S. government

The $1.7 million cuneiform clay tablet was found in 1853 as part of a 12-tablet collection in the rubble of the library of Assyrian King Assur Banipal. Officials believe it was illegally imported into the United States in 2003, then sold to Hobby Lobby and eventually put on display in its Museum of the Bible in the nation’s capital.


Federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations seized the tablet — known as the Gilgamesh Dream tablet — from the museum in September 2019. The Gilgamesh tablet is part of a section of a Sumerian poem from the Epic of Gilgamesh.


It is one of the world’s oldest works of literature, and one of the oldest religious texts. For the acting head of Homeland Security Investigations, which found and investigated the origins of the tablet, the repatriation is personal.


All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

Steve Francis’ parents were born in Iraq, part of a small sect known as Chaldean Iraqis who are Christian, and he was assigned to a US Customs unit in 2003 that was sent to Iraq to help protect looted artifacts.


“It’s really special to me. I’m a Chaldean Iraqi and leading the agency that did this work,” Francis said. “It is really something.”


Government & politics: Politicians, government officials and delegates standing in front of their country flags in a political event in the financial district.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, began a civil forfeiture court proceeding that resulted in a repatriation ceremony on Thursday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian with officials from Iraq.


Farreed Yasseen, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States, said the looting of the museum in the 1990s hit Iraqis hard.


Science & technology: Scientist using a microscope in laboratory in the financial district.

“The real core of what happened, though, is that people, individual people, did the right thing,” he said. But there is much more to be done to preserve cultural heritage across the world.


“Artifacts are still being stolen, they are being smuggled out.” Hassan Nadhem, the Iraqi minister of culture, tourism, and antiquities, spoke of the pride he felt in seeing the artifacts returned. “Restituting the Iraqi artifacts for me means restituting our self-esteem and confidence in Iraqi society,” he said, speaking through a translator.



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