Go to contents

U.S. returns 17,000 ancient artifacts to Iraq

Posted August. 05, 2021 07:18,   

Updated August. 05, 2021 07:18


Iraq has reclaimed more than 17,000 ancient artifacts looted out of the country by the U.S. during the Gulf War in 1991 and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although the so-called “Dream of Gilgamesh” tablet, one of the oldest known works of literature dating back 3,500 years to ancient Mesopotamia, is not included among the already returned artifacts, it is expected to be returned soon.

According to The Associated Press, the Iraqi government said during a press conference on Tuesday that the ancient artifacts recovered from the U.S. in a trip by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi last week. The Iraqi prime minister contacted the U.S. prior to his visit to reclaim the looted artifacts and also mentioned the issue when he met with the U.S. President Joe Biden on July 26.

Among the returned artifacts, about 12,000 items (70%) were held by the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Most of them are from an ancient city of Irisagrig.

Eyes are now on “Dream of Gilgamesh,” which is expected to be returned to Iraq within a few weeks at the earliest. The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem about Gilgamesh, the king of the Mesopotamian city-state Uruk. The Dream of Gilgamesh is 15 centimeters in width and 12 centimeters in length, and gives an account of the Great Flood and Garden of Eden in the Bible.

The 3,500-year-old clay tablet was purchased by a U.S. antique dealer in London in 2003 and was illegally transported to the U.S. Since the U.S. arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby purchased the tablet in 2014, the tablet has been displayed at the Museum of the Bible. A U.S. federal court recently ruled that Hobby Lobby obtained the Dream of Gilgamesh through illegal means and that it should be returned to Iraq.

Seong-Ho Hwang hsh0330@donga.com