Iran to Discuss Return of Achaemenid Tablets

Iran to Discuss Return of Achaemenid TabletsIran to Discuss Return of Achaemenid Tablets

Iran’s top cultural heritage authority will start negotiating the restitution of the Persepolis Collection from the United States today, following a verdict by a US federal appeals court against the seizure of the loaned artifacts.

Eight Americans injured in a Hamas suicide bombing in 1997 and their families had moved to seize the ancient artifacts to satisfy a US court ruling that Iran owed the victims $71.5 million for its alleged involvement in the attack.

However, several US-based media, including the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, reported last week that the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute are not required to turn over the antiquities to the eight victims.

“Because we’ve only read about it in the news and haven’t heard anything officially, with help from the Presidential Office, we’re going to confirm the verdict [today],” Mohammad Hassan Talebian, cultural heritage deputy at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, was quoted as saying by ISNA at a press conference on Saturday.

Citing the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the court of appeals reportedly ruled on Tuesday that, because the relics were not used for commercial activity in the US, they “are immune from attachment and execution”.

The Persepolis Collection includes about 30,000 clay tablets and fragments that Iran loaned to the Oriental Institute in 1937 for research, translation and cataloguing. It contains 300 tablets dating back to the Achaemenid era (550–330 BC), which are impressed in cuneiform and record administrative details of the ancient Persian empire.

A large haul of Iran’s stolen artifacts have been repatriated over the past two years. A shipment of 349 ancient relics was returned from Belgium in December 2014–after 33 years-following a ruling by a court in Brussels.

In April 2015, over 100 historical artifacts taken from the archeological site of Choghamish in Khuzestan Province were returned by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, after The Hague in the Netherlands ruled in favor of Iran and obliged the US to repatriate the objects.

In July 2015, the government in Rome returned a shipment of 30 pre-Islamic-era relics, while about 73 smuggled relics, including seal impressions from the Sassanid era (224–651), were returned to Tehran in May.

Iran’s cultural heritage officials have urged Iranian expats to report stolen Iranian artifacts to Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization to help bring the relics back home.

They have been called upon to use the online portal,, to share information they may have regarding stolen artifacts.

  Eying More UNESCO Inscriptions

Barely a week has passed since Lut Desert and Iran’s ancient qanat system were inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List and ICHHTO has already set its sights on the next year’s inscriptions.

Officials intend to add two more sites next year to its growing list of world heritage sites: The ancient city of Yazd in central Iran and the Caspian Hyrcanian forests in the north, IRNA quoted Talebian as saying.

With a historical texture covering 2,270 hectares, Yazd is thought to be one of–if not the first-adobe city in the world.

The country’s existing UNESCO-listed cities, such as Shahr-e-Soukhteh, are all uninhabited, which would make Yazd the first city on the coveted list in which a large population continues to live.

The Caspian Hyrcanian forest has been on UNESCO’s tentative World Heritage List since 2007. Its biological diversity is of economic and social value. Stretching east to west along the southern border of the Caspian Sea, it covers the provinces of North Khorasan, Golestan, Mazandaran, Gilan and Ardabil.