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Federal Judges Orders Forfeiture Of Hobby Lobby's Gilgamesh Tablet

Hobby Lobby bought the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet for more than $1.6 million in 2014. "This rare tablet was pillaged from Iraq and years later sold at a major auction house, with a questionable and unsupported provenance," Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in New York, said in a statement.
Hobby Lobby bought the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet for more than $1.6 million in 2014. "This rare tablet was pillaged from Iraq and years later sold at a major auction house, with a questionable and unsupported provenance," Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in New York, said in a statement.

A federal judge on Monday ordered the forfeiture of a roughly 3,500-year-old cuneiform tablet purchased by Hobby Lobby.

The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet features the inscription of a Sumerian poem, and is considered one of the world’s oldest works of literature.

Federal prosecutors say the historical item was brought illegally into the U.S. in 2003 and again in 2014, after Hobby Lobby purchased it from an international auction house. It was allegedly sold using a false provenance letter, obscuring its real history of ownership.

In 2019, federal agents seized the clay tablet from the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. -- a museum founded by Hobby Lobby’s owners.

The Oklahoma-based arts and crafts store chain was fined $3 million in 2017 after authorities accused the company of buying thousands of artifacts that had been smuggled out of Iraq.

Officials say the tablet will be returned to its original home in Iraq.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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