The US Department of Justice announced, on Tuesday, that the United States will return to Iraq a 3,500-year-old cuneiform tablet, after it was found that it was “stolen cultural property” that was fraudulently introduced to the American art market.
The archaeological tablet made of clay and inscribed with cuneiform is part of the “Epic of Gilgamesh”, which is considered one of the oldest literary works of mankind, and narrates the adventures of a powerful Mesopotamian king in his quest for immortality.
An American art dealer had bought this artifact in 2003 from a Jordanian family residing in London and shipped it to the United States without telling the US customs about the nature of this shipment.
After the tablet arrived in the United States, the dealer sold it in 2007 to other dealers for $50,000, with a forged certificate of origin.
In 2014, the painting was purchased at a price of $ 1.67 million by the Green family, who owns the Hobby Lobby chain of stores, known for its Christian activism, with the intention of displaying it at the Museum of the Bible in Washington.
But in 2017, a museum curator expressed concern about the tablet’s provenance, after finding that the documents presented during its purchase were incomplete.
In September 2019, police confiscated the artifact until Monday, when a federal judge confirmed its confiscation.