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Hobby Lobby’s Nearly 4,000 Ill-Gotten Artifacts Returned to Iraq

Cuneiform tablet
Cuneiform tablet

Image: The Washington Post

We’ve been following the ongoing saga of Hobby Lobby, in which the arts-and-crafts monolith and its owners, the Green family, were implicated in a United States civil complaint alleging that the family wrongfully imported Iraqi artifacts, including, via The Washington Post, “cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals and inscribed clay bullae.” Seven years ago, the nearly 4,000 artifacts entered the US in packages labeled “tile samples,” and were shipped to various Hobby Lobby locations.

Earlier this month, the artifacts were repatriated to the Republic of Iraq in a celebration with Iraqi Ambassador Fareed Yasseen. At the ceremony, Yasseen said that the artifacts will be returned to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture to be studied and exhibited. In July of 2017, the office of Richard Donoghue, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, reached a settlement with Hobby Lobby that resulted in the company returning the artifacts, paying a $3 million fine, and submitting to federal oversight for 18 months.

One of the experts who was asked to review the artifacts, Eckart Frahm of Yale University, said that the pieces were “in poor condition and almost certainly came from illicit excavations in Iraq in the wake of the 2003 invasion by U.S.-led forces.”

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