Home Covid-19 Covid-19 News Authorities announce forfeiture of ancient Gilgamesh tablet from Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible

Authorities announce forfeiture of ancient Gilgamesh tablet from Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible

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Federal authorities introduced the forfeiture Monday of an ancient tablet inscribed with half of the Epic of Gilgamesh from a museum backed by the arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby.

The piece, referred to as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, bearing a model of what’s thought of maybe the world’s oldest work of literature, was featured at the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. Hobby Lobby purchased it in 2014 for $1.6 million from an public sale home that was later discovered to have lied about its origins, federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York stated.

IMAGE: The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet (U.S. District Court Eastern District of NY)
IMAGE: The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet (U.S. District Court Eastern District of NY)

Hobby Lobby, based mostly in Oklahoma, was fined $3 million in 2017 after federal authorities stated it purchased hundreds of artifacts that had been smuggled out of Iraq for the museum. The firm opened the $500 million museum in November 2017.

The museum’s chairman, Steve Green, is the president of Hobby Lobby, which won a Supreme Court case in 2014 over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception necessities.

Court paperwork filed Monday assert that the cuneiform tablet — one of 12 inscribed with the Gilgamesh story — was found in 1853 in Assyrian ruins in northern Iraq.

The paperwork say Hobby Lobby purchased it from an unidentified public sale home, which advised the firm the piece was acquired in San Francisco “well before” 1981. However, the tablet was, actually, bought by an unidentified antiquities supplier in 2003 from the household of the former head of the Jordanian Antiquities Association, The New York Times reported.

A lawsuit cited by The Times alleged that the official, Ghassan Rihani, bought gadgets plundered by Iraqi troopers throughout their occupation of Kuwait in 1991. Rihani’s son advised the newspaper that his father dealt solely in official artifacts.

The false story of the tablet’s provenance was found after a curator at the Museum of the Bible started conducting due diligence analysis in 2017.

A spokeswoman for the museum stated it supported the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to return this Gilgamesh fragment 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,” the museum stated in an announcement.

After the 2017 settlement, Green known as the purchases a “regrettable” mistake and stated the firm ought to have “exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled.”

In a statement in March, he stated the museum had recognized 5,000 papyrus fragments and 6,500 clay objects with inadequate provenance that have been being returned to Egypt and Iraq.

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