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Artefacts Swiss return two ancient cuneiform tablets to Iraq

A cuneiform stone displayed at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad in November 2015


Swiss officials have handed over to the Iraqi Embassy in Bern two rare cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia which were illegally imported into Switzerland.

One of the two clay tablets is 4.5cm high and dates from around 3,000 BC. The other measures 3.2 cm and originates from the Irin/Eridu region in southern Iraq. It dates from 1,900-1,700 BC.

According to the Federal Office of Culture, the two objects were not correctly recorded as “cultural goods” when imported into Switzerland. 

A false registration constitutes a violation of the federal law on the transfer of international cultural goods, which has been in effect since June 1, 2015.

As a result, the Zurich cantonal prosecutor opened legal proceedings against the people who imported the objects, which were also confiscated. 

The two tablets were handed over to the Iraqi Embassy in Bern on Tuesday in the presence of the Iraqi ambassador to Switzerland, Majid Al-Lachmawi, and the director of the Federal Office of Culture, Isabelle Chassot.

The return of the artefacts to their country of origin is part of Swiss efforts to fight illegal trafficking in cultural goods, the office said in a statement.

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