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DOJ Demands Epic of Gilgamesh Tablets’ Return From Hobby Lobby, Reminding Everyone They’re Trash

Another epic mess.

A Hobby Lobby storefront.

The Department of Justice released a press statement demanding the infamous arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby to forfeit a “rare cuneiform tablet bearing a portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh.” This tablet is believed to be one of tens of thousands of artifacts stolen from Iraq during the 2003 invasion by the U.S. In less than two days, 15,000 items were stolen from the National Museum of Iraq alone when their staff were forced to evacuate. While many will be lost to time (and private collections), public-facing institutions like Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible have “found” them in their collection. 

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The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest recorded story in history, with some scholars and scientists believing the tablets to be 3000 years old. Because many epics were told orally first, this story is likely older than we can date the tablet. There are many narrative connections in the Epic of Gilgamesh to many world religions. With it pre-dating the Torah (and therefore the Bible and Quran) by several hundred years, we see why the Museum of the Bible would get involved.

As we do when Hobby Lobby is in the news for the theft or forgery of cultural heritage, the internet began to drag them.

Some are also trying to figure out what Hobby Lobby will steal next.

This news is a continuation of the larger scandal from the past decade concerning their purchases for their Museum of the Bible.

For those that are not keeping track, Hobby Lobby is the same company that:

Is anyone buying the “oh, we are the victims of forgery” or claims that Hobby Lobby was tricked into buying stolen artifacts? They cannot pretend to not know the basics of fact-checking provenance (history of ownership) with the kind of money they are pouring into their museum. In addition to international and federal laws, the American Alliance of Museums has provided guidelines on standards/ethics of collecting and displays since the ’90s—you know, because there’s a long history, including museums, of people swiping cultural artifacts that don’t belong to them and putting them on display, something we’re not surprised Hobby Lobby is into.

In addition to the latest news, some are calling for more attention to their recent Dead Sea Scrolls forgery, too.

I have never been a fan of Hobby Lobby even before I knew of their many issues. My first job out of high school was at Michaels Arts and Crafts, where disgruntled “I demand to speak to your manager” types would threaten to “just go to Hobby Lobby.” While smiling and saying, “I understand your frustration,” I would fight my body to not just point at the door for them to leave. Of course, these customers were not the fault of Hobby Lobby—unlike all of these other scandals.

While the might not necessarily be perfect either, there are definitely better and more ethical choices than Hobby Lobby if you cannot find or afford a local crafts shop.

(via Twitter, featured image: Joe Raedle/Getty Image)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.

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