Ancient Tablet Headed Back to Homeland After Decades

Ancient Tablet Headed Back to Homeland After Decades

( – Iraq was in the headlines this week after former President George W. Bush faced a verbal attack from an audience member while speaking at an event in Beverly Hills. Former Army Corporal Mike Prysner interrupted the former president’s speech to launch a tirade at him. He accused Bush of lying about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle-Eastern nation and needlessly causing Iraqi and American deaths alike when he ordered the 2003 Iraq invasion.

However, the nation was also in the news recently for a very different reason.

A 3,500-Year-Old Relic on Its Way Back to Iraq

A clay tablet dating back to the kingdom of Assyria (now Iraq), which has been in the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, since 2003, will return to Iraq. The Gilgamesh Dream tablet is a clay artifact with religious text, specifically, a Sumerian poem from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Experts believe the Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest epic poem in history. It tells the myth of King Gilgamesh of Uruk (modern-day southern Iraq), a demigod ruler who inherited superpowers from his mother. There are many stories about Gilgamesh. In one, he swam to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve a plant granting immortality, only for a serpent to take the plant from him. Though these tales are obviously fictional, historians believe Gilgamesh is a fictional account of a real king who ruled in Mesopotamia sometime between 2,800 and 2,500 BC.

The language on the tablet is Akkadian, written in a script called cuneiform, a type of writing used in ancient Mesopotamia millennia ago, predating Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The Story of the Tablet Itself

King Gilgamesh and his magical deeds are not the only interesting thing about this story. The tablet itself has been on a remarkable journey.

Valued at $1.7 million today, archeologists found the tablet along with 11 others in 1853 in the ruins of the library of Assyrian King Ashurbanipal. It was stolen from a museum in Iraq in 1991, while the Gulf War was underway there, and made its way through several countries with false documentation until 2003, when smugglers brought it into the US illegally.

Homeland Security Investigations Agents seized the tablet from the Museum of the Bible in 2019 as part of a broader effort to return stolen artifacts to their countries of origin. On Thursday afternoon, September 23, Iraqi officials attended a repatriation ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

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