The 3,500-year-old tablet depicting the Washington-Gilgamesh epic was stolen and returned to Iraq on Thursday after being smuggled into the United States three decades ago.
“For me, it’s about restoring self – esteem and confidence in Iraqi society,” Culture Minister Hassan Naseem said at a handover ceremony in Washington.
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Although small, the piece has enormous cultural and historical value. Contains excerpts from Mesopotamia’s ancient epic poem “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, considered one of the oldest literary works in human history.
-It left a mark on the Iliad and the Odyssey, a story that affected all major monotheistic religions, said Audrey Azole, director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Gilgamesh was the fifth king of the first Iron Dynasty – now the first known urban civilization in Iraq. Considered the greatest pioneer of the Sumerian kings, he ruled in 2650 BC and was subject to legends and poetry, revered as a hero and, later, as a deity.
Returning the identity to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polt “is the story of an epic proportion.” According to him, the clay work is believed to have been stolen from an Iraqi museum in 1991 during the First Gulf War. Reappeared in the UK in 2001.
An American art dealer bought it from a Jordanian family living in London in 2003 and sent it to the United States without informing customs of its true nature. It was sold in 2007 for $ 50,000 to the oldest vendors for a false appearance certificate and then in 2014, for $ 1.67 million from the owners of the entertainment lobby craft chain.
A curator was concerned about the tablet’s appearance in 2017 due to a lack of documentation and finally got the job done in 2019.
The Iraqi Ministry of Culture has asked other organizations to study the artifacts of the suspected sources.
Iraq has plundered its stockpiles for decades, including after the 2003 US invasion.
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