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Ancient Cuneiform Stone Tablet, Rare Old Babylonian Prism Returned To Republic Of Iraq

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Ancient artifacts thousands of years old were returned to the Republic of Iraq this week.

The artifacts had been seized by federal law enforcement officials in separate investigations.

"Investigating cultural property and antiquities is a unique part of our mission at Homeland Security Investigations, Eddy Wang, acting special agent in charge of HSI Los Angeles, said in a statement. "We are proud to return these artifacts, steeped in history, to the people of Iraq."

One of the artifacts included a partial cuneiform stone tablet thousands of years old that may have left the region during looting at the start of the 20th century. It came to the attention of federal officials in July of 2020 when a local collector purchased it from an online auction house. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized the tablet after it was shipped from the United Kingdom without the proper documentation, but no charges are pending.

Iraqi artifact
(credit: U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement)

Another artifact that was returned to the Republic of Iraq was a cuneiform prism from the Old Babylonian Period 2000-1600 BCE that likely originated from modern-day Iraq. An expert in Sumerian literature said the inscribed text was used in Old Babylonian scribal schools to teach children how to write, and is one of only three prisms known to exist with this text, according U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

The owner of the cuneiform prism, which was found in a warehouse in early 2021, had wanted it donated to a collection. But without a proof of title, it was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations.

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