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U.S. Repatriates Artifacts to Iraq

Monday, January 24, 2022

Iraq Cuneiform TabletLOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA—According to a Los Angeles Times report, federal agents handed over a fragment of a cuneiform stone tablet and a rare hexagonal prism thought to have been used to teach children how to write some 4,000 years ago to Salwan Sinjaree, Iraq’s consul general in Los Angeles. Chad Fredrickson of Homeland Security Investigations said that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found the tablet for sale in an online auction. After the artifact was examined by a scholar, the purchaser agreed to turn it over to federal agents for return to the government of Iraq, which had not approved its export as required under Iraqi law. Operators of a private gallery in Los Angeles alerted federal agents and handed over the prism, which had come into their possession without a chain of provenance. Frederickson said scholars determined the tablet fragment may have come from the ancient city of Umma, which has been heavily looted in recent years. Sinjaree said the artifacts will be placed in a museum by Iraq’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs. For more on cuneiform, go to "The World's Oldest Writing."

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