US seizes ancient tablet bearing part of the Epic of Gilgamesh from Hobby Lobby

Cuneiform tablet bearing part of the Epic of Gilgamesh (United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York)

NEW YORK (WLNE) – The Department of Justice has formally seized a rare cuneiform tablet bearing a portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian poem considered one of the oldest forms of literature in the world, from Hobby Lobby.

The tablet is approximately 6 inches by 5 inches and is written in an extinct language called Akkadian.

According to the press release, the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, originated in modern-day Iraq and entered the country illegally after it was purchased by a U.S antiquities dealer in the early 2000s.

An amended complaint alleged that in 2007, the antiquities dealer sold the tablet with a false provenance letter stating it was purchased inside a box of miscellaneous bronze artifacts in an auction from 1981.

The letter traveled with the tablet, being sold several times in different countries, eventually landing at the Auction House in London.

In 2014, the approximately 3600-year-old tablet was later sold to Hobby Lobby for display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.

Hobby Lobby consented to the forfeiture of the tablet.

“Forfeiture of the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet demonstrates the Department’s continued commitment to eliminating smuggled cultural property from the U.S. art market,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“Thwarting trade in smuggled goods by seizing and forfeiting an ancient artifact shows the department’s dedication to using all available tools, including forfeiture, to ensure justice”, he continued.

 

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