During a period of unrest in Iraq in 2003, looters stole tens of thousands of ancient artifacts that were later smuggled out of the country, including the 3,500-year-old Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, a rare portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient Mesopotamian epic poem, known as the earliest surviving piece of literature and the second-oldest surviving religious text.
Now, the US will return more than 17,000 ancient artifacts, including the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, after authorities working to recover the artifacts recently reached a repatriation agreement with Baghdad to return the cultural artifacts seized from dealers and museums.
“The US government seized some of the artifacts and sent them to the [Iraqi] embassy. The Gilgamesh tablet, the important one, will be returned to Iraq in the next month after legal procedures are finalized,” said the culture minister, Hassan Nadhim.
As reported by The Guardian, US customs agents seized the Gilgamesh tablet in 2019, after it was smuggled, auctioned, and sold to an art dealer in Oklahoma and displayed at a museum in Washington DC. Last month, a court ordered the tablet’s forfeiture so it could be returned to Iraq.