Lebanese museum returns millennia-old antiquities to Iraq

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Laith Majid Hussein (L), head of Iraq's Antiquities Authority, is pictured with Iraqi deputy foreign minister, Ahmed Tahseen Barwari, during a press conference at Baghdad airport on February 7, 2022. (Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)
Laith Majid Hussein (L), head of Iraq's Antiquities Authority, is pictured with Iraqi deputy foreign minister, Ahmed Tahseen Barwari, during a press conference at Baghdad airport on February 7, 2022. (Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

Baghdad, Iraq | AFP | Monday 2/7/2022 - 10:11 UTC-5

More than 300 ancient cuneiform writing tablets were returned to Iraq on Monday from a private Lebanese museum, as part of Baghdad's widespread efforts to restore antiquities looted during years of war.

Sealed wooden boxes transported the 331 tablets bearing ancient cuneiform script from the Nabu Museum in northern Lebanon to Baghdad, an AFP journalist said.

Iraq has seen its historical artifacts looted for decades, including since the invasion by the United States in 2003, and the rise of the Islamic State militant group 10 years later.

"Today, Iraq has restored 331 cuneiform tablets," the director of the Iraqi council of antiquities and heritage, Laith Majid Hussein, told reporters.

The tablets date back to different eras, he added, ranging from the Akkadian empire starting in 2,400 BC, to the third Sumerian dynasty of Ur and through to the ancient Babylonian empire, ending in 1,594 BC.

The kingdom of Ur, founded more than 4,500 years ago, was one of the first centres of civilisation.

Built on the banks of the Euphrates river, it was the site of the first examples of writing in cuneiform script.

Hussein thanked Lebanon for their cooperation, as well as the director of the Nabu Museum for having "facilitated the restoration."

On Sunday, an official Iraqi delegation received the artefacts in a ceremony at the National Museum of Beirut.

The Nabu museum, named after the Mesopotamian god of wisdom and writing, opened its doors in 2018 with a collection of antiquities -- some more than 3,000 years old -- originating in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Yemen.

The returned pieces came from private collections, most notably that of Jawad Adra, husband of former Lebanese defence minister Zeina Akar.

His private collection includes some 2,000 pieces, according to the museum catalogue.

Iraq has recovered more than 18,000 artefacts in one year, the vast majority of them from the United States.

In December, the Iraqi authorities held a ceremony to celebrate the return of the prized Gilgamesh tablet, dating back more than 3,500 years.

 

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