US hands back Gilgamesh Dream Tablet to Iraq

A 3,600-year-old tablet showing part of the Epic of Gilgamesh was handed back to Iraq by the US on Thursday.

The US handed back to Iraq the 3,600-year-old tablet showing part of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The tablet, known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, shows parts of a Sumerian poem from the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest known religious texts. It is believed to have been looted from a museum in Iraq in 1991, and “fraudulently” entered the US in 2007, according to Unesco. It was acquired by Christian arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby for display in its museum of biblical artefacts in 2014, and seized by the US Department of Justice in 2019.

Unesco called the return of the tablet a “significant victory in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural objects”, and added that the theft and illicit trafficking of ancient artefacts is “a key funding source for terrorist groups and other organised criminal organisations”.