Iran urges US to repatriate all Achaemenid tablets

Iran’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations said the United States must return the Achaemenid clay tablets to the country without any exceptions or excuses.

According to Majid Takht-Ravanchi, the United States has repeatedly used excuses to delay the repatriation of the tablets to Iran.

“About 90 years ago, the Achaemenid tablets were transferred to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago on a three-year loan,” IRNA said on Tuesday, citing Takht-Ravanchi.

“Unfortunately, they have not been fully returned since then,” he added.

Several batches of Achaemenid-era clay tablets and related fragments have been delivered to Iran in recent years, but thousands of pieces are still preserved at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

Takht-Ravanchi said Iran’s request is “clear,” reiterating that all loaned tablets must be delivered to the Iranian government intact.

He said the tablets are part of Iranian culture and history and belong to the Iranian people.

“The United States postpones this every time under a pretext, while the Americans themselves admit that these tablets came to the United States on loan but were not fully returned,” added the Iranian envoy.

The tablets were discovered by archaeologists affiliated with the University of Chicago in the 1930s during excavations in Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire.

In 2019, nearly 1,800 artifacts, from a collection of tablets that would become the archives of the Persepolis fortification, were returned to Iran.

The collection gave a detailed overview of aspects of Achaemenid society, gave an overview of the Persian Empire centered on what is today Iran, and influenced the way scholars perceive art, language and Achaemenid history.

The Achaemenid Empire was the largest of the empires in the ancient Near East and stretched from the Balkans and Egypt to India and Central Asia.

According to the Oriental Institute, the tablets illustrated “the support of the king and the court, the deployment of workers, the practice of religion, the development of the art of the seal, the interaction of languages, and more.”

In 2006, a US federal court decision sought to seize and auction the priceless collection of ancient clay tablets. However, an appeals court later overturned the decision, and in 2018 the United States Supreme Court upheld the subsequent ruling that the collection cannot be removed.

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