According to the Iraqi Culture Minister who spoke in Baghdad last week, in an “unprecedented” restitution, the US will return to Iraq some 17,000 archaeological treasures dating back 4,000 years and looted in recent decades.
The ancient tablet, which a wealthy US collector had acquired along with other Iraqi artefacts to display in the Washington Museum of the Bible, will be handed over to Iraqi officials at the Smithsonian Institution on September 23.
The rare fragment — also known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, which recounts a dream sequence from the Gilgamesh epic in Akkadian cuneiform script — is one of many ancient artifacts from Iraq and the Middle East that were collected by David Green, the billionaire owner of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain.
The formal handover ceremony will take place at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC on 23 September. “This exceptional restitution is a major victory over those who mutilate heritage and then traffic it to finance violence and terrorism,” said Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay, who will speak at the Washington ceremony. “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.”
Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible was conceived by its billionaire president, the evangelical Christian Steve Green. In 2017, the arts and crafts retailer agreed to pay a fine of $3m, and forfeit thousands of smuggled ancient Iraqi artefacts it had acquired. Green said at the time that the company “should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled”.
This is a bit of a follow-up to another News Views discussion. A couple of our contributors said it about just right back then, and I think it still holds true.
“Welp, there’s only two choices on something like this. It’s either stolen or it’s fake…” – Rodney Cayuga
“Little Thief selling stolen property to Big Thieves and then being sued by the Big Thieves when the scam fell apart. I’m losing my faith in the criminal underworld. – stingray68