There are those that say there is no such thing as bad publicity. We beg to differ. Once again Hobby Lobby is in the news with another example of how the company once again purchased and displayed items of questionable origin in its museum. This time it is in regards to a rare cuneiform tablet that contains a portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Approximately 3,500 years old, the “Gilgamesh Dream Tablet,” the tablet originated in modern-day Iraq. It was initially purchased in London by an American antiquities dealer in 2003. The date of the purchase alone makes the provenance of the tablet suspect as this was the period in which many archaeological sites in Iraq were being looted and the finds being sold on the black market. However, it’s provenance was falsified, claiming that the tablet had been discovered in a box sold at a California auction in 1981. Hobby Lobby purchased the tablet at auction in 2014, and apparently depended on Christie’s to do due diligence on the provenance. Turns out, the tablet was illegally removed from Iraq. Hobby Lobby was ordered to turn over the tablet to authorities to begin the repatriation process.
Given that the Green family consulted with a leading cultural heritage lawyer before they began purchasing antiquities and ignored her advice, it’s not surprising that these stories will continue to arise. Where it will end remains to be seen.