UNESCO has announced that the United States will formally return a 3500-year-old tablet, looted from an Iraqi museum 30 years ago, to Iraq this week. The $1.7 million Sumerian cuneiform clay tablet, found in 1853 in the ruins of the library of 7th-century BC Assyrian King AshurBanipal, recounts the Epic of Gilgamesh. The epic, one of the world’s oldest known religious texts, centres around the mythological hero-king Gilgamesh.

The tablet had been illegally imported into the United States in 2003. It was then sold to Hobby Lobby, a craft retail chain in 2014 and put on display in the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C.

According to the Iraqi Culture Minister, Dr. Hassan Nadhem, the “unprecedented restitution” is “the result of months of efforts by the Iraqi authorities in conjunction with their embassy in Washington.” Along with the tablet, the US will return some 17,000 archaeological treasures dating back 4,000 years and looted in recent decades. The artefacts will be returned over to Iraqi officials at the Smithsonian Institution on September 23.

On Monday, UNESCO called the repatriation “a significant victory in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural objects.”

In recent years, countries around the world have made greater efforts to return pilfered antiques that are often trafficked to fund terrorism or violence.

“By returning these illegally acquired objects, the authorities here in the United States and in Iraq are allowing the Iraqi people to reconnect with a page in their history,” said Audrey Azoulay, director general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

From : pk.mashable.com

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