Sep 23, 2021 - News
Ancient tablet bearing part of the Epic of Gilgamesh to return to Iraq
A gloved hand holds the tablet
Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The 3,500-year-old Gilgamesh Tablet will be returned to Iraq during a ceremony today with U.S. and Iraqi officials at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

  • One of the world's oldest literary works, the clay tablet contains passages from the Epic of Gilgamesh written in ancient Sumerian. It had been on display at the Museum of the Bible.

Flashback: In 2019, federal law enforcement seized the tablet from the Museum of the Bible, which is not affiliated with the Smithsonian. 

  • The tablet had been smuggled from Iraq, then purchased by Hobby Lobby and loaned, along with other artifacts, to the museum, federal authorities say.  
  • Just months prior to the museum's 2017 opening, Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million and agreed to forfeit thousands of smuggled Iraqi artifacts. 

"In these artifacts, the Iraqi people can rediscover our unique heritage that long predates the Sadam and ISIS stains on our history."

—Dr. Fareed Yasseen, Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., in a statement

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