A Babylonian tablet, bearing an inscribed cuneiform text and believed to be 2,800 years old, has been unveiled in Iraq following its repatriation from Italy. The artefact, which was absent from its homeland for almost four decades, features an ancient Babylonian alphabet and was displayed to the public as a symbol of Iraq’s rich cultural heritage.
The relic was formally returned to Iraq by the Italian authorities in a ceremony held in Bologna, where it was presented to the Iraqi President, Abdul Latif Rashid.
The circumstances surrounding the Babylonian tablet’s discovery and its subsequent journey to Italy remain shrouded in mystery. It was seized by Italian law enforcement in the 1980s, but the specifics of how it ended up in Italy are not well-documented.
Iraq’s Culture Minister, Ahmed Badrani, has speculated that the tablet might have been unearthed during the archaeological excavations that coincided with the construction of the Mosul Dam in the 1980s.
Iraq, often hailed as the ‘cradle of civilisation’, boasts a history steeped in cultural achievements, not least of which is the development of the world’s first writing system. Its illustrious past includes the establishment of the Bayt al-Hikmah, or House of Wisdom, in the late 8th century. This iconic institution housed what was, at the time, the world’s most extensive collection of literature on science, art, mathematics, medicine, and philosophy.
Tragically, the rich trove of Iraq’s antiquities has suffered devastating losses due to looting, particularly in the aftermath of the US-led invasion two decades ago.
President Rashid lauded Italy for its collaboration in returning the Babylonian tablet and expressed a steadfast commitment to pursuing the recovery of additional Iraqi artefacts that remain abroad. He highlighted the importance of such historical pieces in understanding and preserving Iraq’s cultural heritage.
This development marks a pivotal moment in Iraq’s ongoing efforts to protect and reclaim its historical treasures and underscores the global importance of international cooperation in preserving cultural heritage.
Image Credit: Zunkir on Wikipedia