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Iran seeking more docs for case of Achaemenid tablets
Tehran Times Culture Desk

TEHRAN -- Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) is searching for more documents to enable the country to win the court case against the University of Chicago on the matter of the Achaemenid tablets.

CHTHO’s Judicial Office has set up a team of experts to look for the documents at the archives of Iran’s Customs Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and former prime ministerial office -- present Presidential Office, the office director Omid Ghanami told CHN on Monday.

The project aims to provide Iran with more documents to prove its ownership of the tablets kept at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.

“So far, the documents found during the search show that the tablets have been loaned to the University of Chicago and the artifacts have not been given as compensation in exchange for services performed,” Ghanami noted.

However, he said that the documents refer to implications of the subject and the team should search for more reliable documents.

According to Ghanami, it’s not certain when the court session would be held.

In spring 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Blanche Manning ruled that a group of people injured by a 1997 bombing in Israel could seize the 300 clay tablets loaned to the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and the university cannot protect Iran’s ownership rights to the artifacts.

Following Iranian officials’ protests against the ruling, the court was slated to reexamine the case on December 21, 2006, but the court session was postponed to January 19, 2007, allegedly due to the fact that Iran had not provided all the documents necessary to the court.

The court session was held on the above-mentioned date, but no verdict was issued.

The Oriental Institute holds 8000 to 10,000 intact and about 11,000 fragmented tablets, as estimated by Gil Stein, the director of the university’s Oriental Institute.

The tablets were discovered by the University of Chicago archaeologists in 1933 while they were excavating in Persepolis, the site of a major Oriental Institute excavation.

The artifacts bear cuneiform script explaining administrative details of the Achaemenid Empire from about 500 BC. They are among a group of tens of thousands of tablets and tablet fragments that were loaned to the university’s Oriental Institute in 1937 for study. A group of 179 complete tablets was returned in 1948, and another group of more than 37,000 tablet fragments was returned in 1951.

Based on a bill approved by the Iranian Majlis in 1930, foreign research institutes were allowed to conduct excavations at Iranian ancient sites exclusively or during joint projects with the Iranian government.

Foreigners were also given permission to share the artifacts discovered during the excavation projects with Iranian team members and to transfer their share to their country.

By the act, many Iranian artifacts were looted by foreign institutes working on Iranian ancient sites until the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.


 

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