1146 GMT December 02, 2021
"With the return of 17,000 Iraqi artefacts, I ordered the reopening of the Iraq Museum to the public and researchers," Kadhimi said in a tweet.
On Wednesday, Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Antiquities Hassan Nadhim said in a statement that the retrieved tablets date back to 4,500 years ago and bear cuneiform inscriptions documenting the trade exchanges during the Sumerian civilization, wrote freepressjournal.in.
The next day, Kadhimi and his delegation returned to Baghdad after several days of visit to the US and brought back the 17,000 artefacts.
According to the official statistics, about 15,000 pieces of cultural relics from the Stone Age, the Babylonian, Assyrian and Islamic periods were stolen or destroyed by looters after Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled by US-led troops in 2003.
The Mosul Museum and ancient cities of Hatra and Nimrud had also been destroyed and large numbers of antiquities were smuggled after the Daesh terrorist group took control of large territories in northern and western Iraq in 2014.
More than 10,000 sites in Iraq are officially recognised as archaeological sites, but most of them are not safeguarded and many were still being looted.
The United States, in an “unprecedented” restitution, decided to return to Iraq some 17,000 archaeological treasures dating back to 4,000 years ago and looted in recent decades, the culture minister in Baghdad said recently, as per a report by aljazeera.com.
The announcement came days after Kadhimi met with US President Joe Biden in Washington, DC.
“This is the largest return of antiquities to Iraq,” said Nazim, hailing the decision as “the result of months of efforts by the Iraqi authorities in conjunction with their embassy in Washington”.
Among the pieces to be returned to Iraq is a 3,500-year-old clay tablet with a sequence from the epic of Gilgamesh, which once sat in Washington’s Museum of the Bible, the US Department of Justice said separately in Washington.
It was not immediately clear whether the ‘Gilgamesh Dream Tablet’ would be among the 17,000 pieces to be returned this week.
The rare fragment, which recounts a dream sequence from the epic in Akkadian cuneiform script, is one of many ancient artefacts from the Middle East collected by David Green, the billionaire owner of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts and crafts stores.
The tablet was just one of thousands of Iraqi-origin artefacts, mostly 3,000- to 4,000-year-old cuneiform tablets and seals, that have been seized from Hobby Lobby and the Bible Museum for repatriation to Iraq.