Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Stolen Sumerian Tablets Come from the Lost City of Irisagrig

In the US, ICE have returned to Iraqi authorities some 3,800 Iraqi artefacts that were smuggled to Hobby Lobby stores ('as tile samples'). The retailer had bought them in 2010 for $1.6 million via dealers in Israel and the UAE. In 2017, the U.S. federal government filed civil action against  Hobby Lobby to forfeit more than 5,500 artifacts that had allegedly been illegally imported from Iraq in 2010.  It is not at this stage clear where the discrepancy in numbers comes from.

It turns out that there is an additional twist in the tale (Owen Jarus, 'Stolen Sumerian Tablets Come from the Lost City of Irisagrig' Live Science April 30, 2018 [Jason Daley, 'Some of Hobby Lobby’s Smuggled Artifacts May Come From Lost Sumerian City' Smithsonian mag May 2, 2018) 
 Of the 450 cuneiform tablets in that haul, many came from an ancient city called Irisagrig, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements said in a statement. Many of these tablets date from between 2100 B.C. and 1600 B.C., the statement said. Most of them are legal or administrative texts– meaning that they contain records such as contracts and inventories of goods that made it easier for private citizens and the city’s government to run their affairs – while a few contain a form of magical spells called incantations, the statement said.
In a 2010 paper that Jarus cites, Manuel Molina Martos of the Spanish National Research Council describes Irisagrig as “a Sumerian city never excavated before and whose location remains unknown.” These are not the only tablets to be associated with Irisagrig. Since the late 1990s, these tablets have been turning up in some numbers in antiquities shops and auction houses. One is in the Ashmolean Museum (apparently acquired in teh 1930s) a large number are in 'unknown' collections, while there is a body in the collections of Yale, published in 2003).While archaeologists have some guesses for where the city may have been, they have not yet found the site.

But looters obviously have.

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