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Baghdad puts on display ancient artefacts returned by US

Iraqi foreign minister says nearly 17,916 artefacts have been returned from different countries including the US, UK, Italy, Japan and the Netherlands.

BAGHDAD – Ancient artefacts looted and smuggled out of Iraq after the US invasion in 2003 were put on display in Baghdad on Tuesday.

Among the artefacts returned by the United States was a 3,500-year-old clay tablet bearing part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the ancient Sumerian tale believed to be one of the world’s first pieces of literature.

The tablet, displayed at the Iraqi foreign ministry headquarters, was handed to the Iraqi embassy in Washington by the city’s Museum of the Bible.

“We returned nearly 17,916 artefacts from different countries including the US, UK, Italy, Japan and the Netherlands,” Iraqi foreign minister Fuad Hussein told a news conference.

US authorities seized the Gilgamesh tablet in 2019 after it was smuggled, auctioned and sold to an arts dealer in Oklahoma and displayed at a museum in Washington, D.C. A court ordered its forfeiture in July.

Iraq’s ancient heritage has been decimated by conflict, destruction and looting, especially since 2003.

Authorities have been trying to track down, retrieve and preserve thousands of archaeological relics which are still missing.