Authorities Demand Hobby Lobby Return Stolen Gilgamesh Tablet To Iraq

Authorities Demand Hobby Lobby Return Stolen Gilgamesh Tablet To Iraq

Authorities Demand Hobby Lobby Return Stolen Gilgamesh Tablet To Iraq

Brooklyn’s federal prosecutors want the ancient artefact known as the “Gilgamesh Dream Tablet” artefact back to Iraq — where it was looted years ago before it was sold for the arts and crafts chain bible museum to an unwritten hobby lobby.

The ancient “Gilgamesh Dream Table.”

Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue ‘s office filed a civil action Monday asking that the $1,674,000 artefact, dated 1600 BC, be handed over to the Iraqi government.

Officials said that a Sumerian epic poem written on a clay tablet in a cuneiform is  considered one of the oldest pieces of literature in the world.

 Donoghue said in a statement—”The US government will make every effort to preserve the heritage when a loot of cultural property is found in this country, by returning these artifacts to their where they belong.” 

“In this case, a major auction house failed to meet its obligations by minimizing its concerns that the provenance of an important Iraqi artefact was fabricated, and withheld from the buyer information that undermined the provenance’s reliability.”

Federal agents seized the 5-by-6-inch work in 2019 from the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.

In April 2003, an unnamed antiquities dealer purchased the tablet along with a number of other items from another dealer in London, prosecutors said.

In 2007, that dealer sold the tablet for $50,000 to another buyer, and allegedly provided a fake provenance letter, falsely claiming it had been legitimately obtained at an auction in 1981 before laws were passed restricting the importation of Iraqi artefacts.

The tablet was later sold by an unnamed international auction house to Hobby Lobby Stores in 2014, in a private sale for an eye-popping $1,674,000 for display at the Museum of the Bible.

Three years later, a museum curator contacted the auction to clear up some contradictory information about the item’s origins.

Hobby Lobby president Steve Green was fined $3 million in 2017 after federal prosecutors discovered the company had illegally acquired the artifact.

Despite inquiries from the museum and Hobby Lobby, the auction house failed to disclose details about how they had obtained the artefact and withheld the false provenance letter, which it knew would not hold up to “scrutiny in a public auction,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.

It’s unclear whether the museum, which cooperated with the investigation, alerted federal authorities to the suspected theft.

The piece is known as the “Gilgamesh Dream Tablet” since it contains a portion of the poem in which the protagonist describes his dreams to his mother.

Hundreds of thousands of artefacts have been looted from archaeological sites throughout Iraq since the early 1990s and sold on the black market, officials said.

Spokeswoman Charlotte Clay said the museum fully supports the effort to return the tablet to Iraq.

“The museum, before displaying the item, informed the Embassy of Iraq on Nov. 13, 2017, that it had the item in its possession but extensive research would be required to establish provenance,” she said in a statement.

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