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An archaeological piece known as the Gilgamesh Sleep Tablet, bought bymore than 1.6 million dollars and that was exhibited in a museum in the United States, remains seized by the American Justice to be returned to Iraq, sinceits marketing began after being stolen.
The announcement was made on Monday, May 18, by the Brooklyn (New York) prosecutor's office, Richard Donoghue, who pointed out that when "looted cultural property" is found in the country, the authorities do "everything possible topreserve heritage by returning those pieces where they belong ”.
In addition, he blamed the auction house that sold it for having minimized the importance of the origin of the object, of about 12 by 15 centimeters and3,600 years old, which was exhibited at the Washington D.C. Museum of the Bible. untilseizure in 2019.
The tablet was identified as part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, since it had inscribed a part of this Sumerian epic poem in which Gilgamesh describes a dream to his mother and she tells him that it means that he will find a new friend: «You will see him and you heart will smile ».
A chain of sales
In order to sell the piece, an anonymous dealer invented that he had acquired it in 1981 in San Francisco. Christie’s auction house was the one that finally helped market it, even though could not verify its origin.
Hobby Lobby chain of craft storesacquired it at a bid for $ 1,674,000 in 2014 to be exhibited in the Museum of the Bible. Three years later, the museum's curator observed contradictions about the origin of the tablet and asked Christie's for information, which did not provide details on how it had been obtained and even, according to the Justice, withheld the letter of origin, since it did not comply with the requirements for public auction.
The legal battle for the Gilgamesh Sleep Tablet
When the dubious origin of the work was revealed, Hobby Lobby sued the auction house for feeling cheated on the legality of the sale of the piece andasked for the money back.
“We support the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security to return this fragment of Gilgamesh to Iraq. Christie's, the source of the piece, is now the subject of a lawsuit presented by Hobby Lobby, who loaned us the piece, "said the museum.
In response, a spokesperson for the auction house stated that now that they are aware of "illicit activity prior to Christie's involvement," they began reviewing provenance documentation submitted by "previous owners."
"Any suggestion that Christie's had knowledge of the original fraud or illegal importationhas no foundation ", said the spokesman.