U.S. authorities file lawsuit against Hobby Lobby to return Gilgamesh’s Dream Tablet to Iraq
NEW YORK – U.S. federal prosecutors are seeking to return the ancient “Gilgamesh Dream Tablet” to Iraq after it was purchased by Hobby Lobby arts and crafts store chain store for display in the Bible Museum in Washington, D.C. The ancient cuneiform tablet is currently located in a Homeland Security warehouse in Queens, New York.
A civil complaint filed on Monday alleges that the tablet was stolen and aims to determine how the tablet reached the U.S.
The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet is 3500-year-old antique from Iraq which includes portions of the Gilgamesh epic poem in which the hero, Gilgamesh, describes his dreams to his mother.
The complete epic poem, believed to have been written at least 4,00 years ago, mirrors stories found in the Old Testament, such as the Great Flood and the story of the Garden of Eden, but predate them by thousands of years. Written in the Akkadian language, a 12-tablet version of the poem was discovered in the library of a ruined palace in the ancient city of Nineveh in present-day Mosul.
The Hobby Lobby group bought the tablet from a well-known auction house in 2014 for $ 1.67 million.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York stated that the tablet entered the U.S. illegally.
According to the civil lawsuit, an antiques dealer bought the tablet in 2003 in London and sold it in 2007 for $ 50, 000 using forged documents alleging he had obtained the piece from an auction in the U.S. in 1981.
This latest lawsuit comes after the Hobby Lobby Group had been penalized $ 3 million and forced to hand over thousands of smuggled antiques from Iraq which the group bought for the Museum of the Bible after it was discovered that they had been stolen.
In 1991, 9 out of 13 museums in Iraq were looted after the dictator Saddam Hussein lost control of parts of the country following the U.S. response to Iraq’s invasion of neighboring Kuwait. The countries museums were again looted as the Islamic State spread in 2014.
Steve Green, Chairman of the Museum of the Bible Museum, revealed that he had detected 5,000 other papyrus antiques and 6,500 pieces of pottery in the museum of unknown source, stressing that the pieces would be returned to Egypt and Iraq.