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Daily World News

Thousands of ancient archaeological pieces return to Iraq from US

CM 31/07/2021

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When Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi sealed an agreement with US President Joe Biden on Tuesday to end the US combat mission in Iraq, the Iraqi delegation returned home with another significant accomplishment.

The US announced on Wednesday that it would be returning 17,000 artifacts to Iraq, according to a report by Deutsche Welle
The artifacts, presumed stolen during the US invasion in 2003, had left Iraq through illegal antiquity trades and made their way across the western world, resurfacing in the US and Britain, among other countries. “Most of these artifacts were part of the materials that were looted from the Iraq Museum in Baghdad,” stated Elizabeth Stone, an archaeologist from Stony Brook University in New York who had been on various expeditions to Iraq. “It was clear to everyone that these had been stolen from the Museum since they had catalog numbers on them and so could not have come from illegal excavations,” Stone said.
The current planned return of 17,000 pieces was deemed by Iraqi culture minister Hassan Nazim “unprecedented”. Such transactions had occurred in the past, but in far smaller scales.

“This is the largest return of antiquities to Iraq,” said Nazim, “the result of months of efforts by the Iraqi authorities in conjunction with their embassy in Washington.”
The nearly 4,000 year old artifacts include the Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient tablet depicting a poem in the Akkadian script, considered to be one of the oldest known works of literature. The tablet was purchased by Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based arts-and-crafts retailer, which procured over 5,500 such smuggled artifacts from different auctions. These were eventually seized by the US Justice Department. 
“Iraqi contacts with the American side made it clear that the smuggled antiquities are in the safe hands of the American Homeland Security,” said Iraqi historian Abdullah Khorsheed Qader in an interview to DW. He added that officials had been working together for many years to reach this significant step in recovering the lost artifacts and expressed hopes that additional countries will make the same efforts to return the antiques to Iraq.


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