Iraq claims the United States has returned 17,000 looted ancient treasures

Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and Foreign Affairs said Baghdad had reached an agreement with US authorities to recover artifacts and other items confiscated after the 2003 invasion.

According to Iraqi officials, the United States began returning more than 17,000 looted and smuggled ancient artifacts from Iraq following the 2003 invasion.

The Iraqi Ministry of Culture and Foreign Affairs said that the US authorities had reached an agreement with the Baghdad government to return the confiscated treasures to American merchants and museums, including a 3,500-year-old clay tablet bearing part of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

“The US government seized some artifacts and sent them to [Iraqi] The Embassy. Culture Minister Hassan Nazim told Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the important Gilgamesh painting will be returned to Iraq next month after completing legal procedures.

Tens of thousands of antiquities disappeared from Iraq following the invasion that toppled President Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Much was smuggled or destroyed by the armed group ISIS, which controlled a third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017 before being defeated by Iraqi and international forces.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Sumerian tale considered one of the oldest literatures in the world.

The Gilgamesh Tablet was confiscated by US authorities in 2019 after it was smuggled, sold and sold to an art dealer in Oklahoma and displayed in a museum in Washington, DC, the US Justice Department said. A court ordered his confiscation last month.

An American antiques dealer bought the tablet from a London retailer in 2003.

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Nadim said that other artifacts that were returned included tablets inscribed with cuneiform letters.

Iraq’s ancient heritage has been devastated by conflict, destruction and looting, especially since 2003, when archaeologists say thousands more pieces are still missing.

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