The Ministry of Culture announced today, Wednesday that it will receive the tablet "Gilgamesh's Dream" tomorrow, Thursday, during an official ceremony in Washington.
A statement by the ministry, received by the Iraqi News Agency (INA), stated that "Tomorrow, Thursday, the process of receiving Gilgamesh Tablet will take place officially in Washington, in the presence of the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Hassan Nadhim, and the head of the Antiquities and Heritage Authority, Dr. Laith Hussein Majid, in cooperation with the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the embassy of Iraq in the United States".
The statement added, "UNESCO will hold an official ceremony on the occasion of handing back (Gilgamesh Dream Tablet) the oldest literary works in history - to Iraq, by US , as it described the step as "a major victory in the fight against illegal trafficking in cultural property."
A 3,600-year-old Gilgamesh Dream Tablet (a clay tablet) contains inscriptions in the Sumerian language showing part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, was stolen from Iraq in 1991 and traded in international auctions, is believed to have been looted from a museum in Iraq following the conflict in that country in 1991. In 2007 it was fraudulently introduced into the US art market and in 2019, it was seized by the US Department of Justice, the statement continued.
UNESCO described the process of recovering this valuable artefact as the culmination of decades of cooperation between states such as the United States and Iraq who are both signatories of UNESCO’s 1970 Convention, which provides countries with the legal and practical framework to prevent illicit trafficking, and to ensure that recovered items are returned to their rightful place.
“By returning these illegally acquired objects, the authorities here in the United States and in Iraq are allowing the Iraqi people to reconnect with a page in their history. This exceptional restitution is a major victory over those who mutilate heritage and then traffic it to finance violence and terrorism”, said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, who will address the ceremony in Washington.
The statement of the UNESCO affirmed that “The theft and illicit trafficking of ancient artefacts continues to be a key funding source for terrorist groups and other organized criminal organizations”.
“The United States deeply values the cultural heritage of Iraq. We have worked for nearly 20 years with Iraqi counterparts and American academic and nonprofit institutions to protect, preserve and honor the rich cultural heritage of Iraq”, said Stacy White, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs.
UNESCO also affirmed that it has, in recent months, been supporting the Iraq National Museum in its efforts to carry out inventory and research work to help safeguard and promote the museum’s invaluable collection.