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More Returns Made on Iraq’s Path to Cultural Restitution

This week has seen the return of 337 ancient artefacts to Iraq from a private museum in Lebanon. Further to our discussion in August on the return of over 17,000 artefacts to Iraq that had been looted and stolen in the past few decades, Lebanon has also returned its share of Iraqi artefacts to their rightful homes. The collection of 337 artefacts which included clay tablets dating back to 2,900 BC had been held at the private Nabu Museum between Tripoli and Beirut.

Example of a Cuneiform Tablet similar to those returned to Iraq.

In a statement to the press made at the handover ceremony at the National Museum of Beirut, the Iraqi ambassador to Lebanon stated that:

“This will not be the last handover.”

Haider Shyaa Al-Barrak, Iraqi Ambassador to Lebanon

This statement heavily indicates Iraq’s intention to continue seeking out items culturally important to their past.

According to a specialist in old writing, Dr Ali Jihad Murad, who works at the Iraqi National Museum, the tablets contain administrative texts including receipts, legal work and commercial undertakings such as contracts and deals. This is hugely informative for historians of Mesopotamia and its forerunner states as it demonstrates how people lived and worked on a daily basis engaging in business, trading goods and employing their civil rights.

The looted items have been returned to Iraq at the end of a 4-year process that began in 2018 after it came to light that the artifacts had been illegally removed from Iraq. This is not an isolated case, as seen from previous reporting, several returns have been made during the past 5 years including from Britain in 2018 and 2020. This further exemplifies the continued effort of Iraq to hold the international community accountable for their previous misdeeds and ensure restitution.

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