Hundreds of 4,000 year old tablets that were looted in Iraq and bought by the U.S. company Hobby Lobby seem to hail from a mysterious Sumerian city whose whereabouts are unknown, a U.S. law enforcement agency just announced.They are being repatriated to Iraq today in a ceremony in Washington D.C. Not everyone is happy about this:
The tablets are part of a cache of thousands of looted artifacts purchased by Hobby Lobby and seized by the U.S. government. They are now set to be returned to Iraq.
Not all scholars agree that the artifacts should be returned right away. "If these tablets are returned and if they are from Irisagrig, it will be a great tragedy for scholarship that they will not be published before they are returned," said David Owen, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. Owen has published a number of scientific papers describing tablets from Irisagrig, but has not worked with Hobby Lobby and has not studied the seized texts.He doesn't object to repatriation in principle, but he thinks that the texts should be fully published first.
"Once they enter the bowels of the Iraq Museum, it is unlikely scholars will ever have acccess to them, nor are there any Iraqi scholars capable of publishing them given the many thousands of unpublished texts already in storage in the museum for generations and mostly inaccessible to scholars," Owen told Live Science.
Last year I noted the story of the seizure of artifacts from Hobby Lobby by the Justice Department. The story has received much coverage since then. Start here and follow the links. The story is indirectly connected (through the Green family) to the Green Collection and to the recently opened Museum of the Bible, on which more here and links.
Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.