U.S. Officials: The Museum of the Bible Must Return a Stolen “Gilgamesh Tablet”

The complaint details part of the journey of this fragment of the oldest known creation tale — from a palace library in ancient Mesopotamia to its present location in a Department of Homeland Security warehouse in Queens, New York.

It alleges that a major international auction house, unnamed in the complaint, obscured the provenance of the tablet, known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, when it sold the tablet to Hobby Lobby in 2014.

Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations seized the tablet last year from the Museum of the Bible, which, it said, cooperated with the investigation. Hobby Lobby’s owners are the founders of the Museum of the Bible.

“Whenever looted cultural property is found in this country, the United States government will do all it can to preserve heritage by returning such artifacts where they belong,” Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. "In this case, a major auction house failed to meet its obligations by minimizing its concerns that the provenance of an important Iraqi artifact was fabricated, and withheld from the buyer information that undermined the provenance’s reliability."

So the MOTB doesn’t even have possession of the tablet any more, and the auction house is responsible for not doing due diligence on provenance. I wonder if MOTB has a legal case against them.

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