On Tuesday, a small clay tablet dating back 3,500 years and bearing a portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh was handed over to Iraqi authorities in a ceremony at Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The event took place in the presence of UNESCO officials as well as Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and Hassan Nadhem, Iraq’s minister of culture, tourism, and antiquities.
In his address, Hussein revealed, “We were able to recover about 17,926 artifacts from several countries, namely America, Britain, Italy, Japan, and the Netherlands.”
On the other hand, UNESCO has described the process of recovering the valuable artifact as the culmination of decades of cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq, both of which are signatories to the UNESCO Convention of 1970.
This came following the approval of a federal judge in New York for the forfeiture of the tablet in July this year.
The $1.7 million cuneiform tablet, known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, is cited as one of the world’s ancient surviving works of literature and one of the oldest religious texts. It was discovered in 1853 as part of a 12-tablet collection in the rubble of the library of Assyrian King Assur Banipal.
The tablet was stolen from an Iraqi museum during the 1991 Gulf War.
Officials believe it was illegally imported into the United States in 2003, then sold to Hobby Lobby and eventually put on display in its Museum of the Bible in Washington.