One of the oldest known religious texts is going back home after an epic tale of its own.
More than three decades ago, the Gilgamesh Dream tablet was stolen from an Iraq museum. It was first discovered in 1853 at the ruins of Assyrian King Assur Banipal's library in Nineveh. On Thursday, it will be returning to Iraq after a ceremony with officials.
"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. This exceptional restitution is a major victory over those who mutilate heritage and then traffic it to finance violence and terrorism," UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay says in a press statement.
This tablet is best known for mirroring the Old Testament.
The approximately 3,500-year-old tablet is written in Akkadian, the ancient Mesopotamian language of the time. It details part of the Gilgamesh epic poem. This text says the protagonist tells his mother about his dreams, and his mother interpreting the dreams as foreshadowing the arrival of a new friend. This tablet is among the oldest religious texts ever discovered.
Before 2003, a professor had found the tablet, writing an article on the translation and significance. In 2013 Christie's auction house came in possession of the table, selling it to Hobby Lobby in 2014 fr $1.67 million who then places it in their Museum of the Bible. Allegedly false documentation was provided to Hobby Lobby saying it was purchased at an American auction in 1981. The tablet was later seized in 2019 by Homeland Security.
The Museum of the Bible has returned thousands of artifacts in the past several years after learning they were illegally in the United States. The American Press says Hobby Lobby's Steve Green was found by prosecutors to have been using middlemen and phony or misleading invoices to acquire antiquities from Iraq. They report that prosecutors learnt he has been warned by his own expert that buying them was risky because many of the artifacts in circulation are stolen.