Iraq reveals ancient stone tablet repatriated by Italy


On Sunday, Iraq unveiled a stone tablet dating back 2,800 years, which had been returned by Italy.

This significant event comes as the war-torn nation endeavors to recover antiquities that were looted from its territory.

The tablet, inscribed with cuneiform text in the Babylonian alphabet, bears the seal of Shalmaneser III, the Assyrian king who ruled the region of Nimrod, located in present-day northern Iraq, from 858 to 823 BC.

While the circumstances surrounding the tablet’s journey to Italy remain unclear, the Italian authorities handed it over to Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid during his recent visit to Bologna.

Expressing gratitude, Rashid acknowledged the efforts and cooperation of the Italian officials in repatriating the artifact during a ceremony held on Sunday at a presidential palace in Baghdad.

“The tablet will be placed in the national museum,” he said.

According to Laith Majid Hussein, director of Baghdad’s council of antiquities and heritage, the tablet had been brought to Italy in the 1980s and subsequently seized by the police.

Iraqi Culture Minister Ahmed Fakak al-Badrani explained that “the circumstances surrounding the tablet’s discovery are uncertain. It might have been found during archaeological excavations or construction work on the Mosul dam, the largest dam in Iraq constructed during the 1980s.”

The significance of the tablet lies in its complete cuneiform text, as emphasized by Minister al-Badrani. The modern-day territory of Iraq is considered the birthplace of Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian civilizations, which provided the foundations for writing and the earliest cities in human history.

Iraq’s cultural heritage has been targeted by looting, particularly in the aftermath of the US-led invasion in 2003. Determined to reclaim its historical artifacts, the Iraqi president declared an ongoing commitment to repatriate all archaeological pieces of Iraqi history from abroad and transform the national Iraq Museum into one of the world’s premier museums.

In a related development, in May, New York prosecutor Alvin Bragg announced the return of two ancient sculptures to Iraq—a limestone Mesopotamian elephant and an alabaster Sumerian bull from the ancient city of Uruk.

These figurines, which had been stolen during the Gulf War, were smuggled into New York in the late 1990s.

The Sumerian bull was part of the private collection of Shelby White, a billionaire philanthropist and Metropolitan Museum of Art trustee.

Sources: Agence France-Presse/MP

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