September 23, 2023

The Washington Museum of the Bible, battered since its inception in 2017 by claims of having acquired thousands of Biblical artifacts on the black market, has tacitly returned 5,000 manuscripts and pieces of papyrus to Egypt in what has long been claimed in the Fled the country in 2011 amid the upheavals of the Arab Spring.

Steve Green, chairman of the Bible Museum and co-founder The multi-billion dollar hobby lobby chain had pointed to the return in March when it said that “several thousand items, likely from Iraq and Egypt, but for which there was insufficient reliable origin information, would be returned to their countries of origin. ”

The return is one of several instances where the museum has been forced, under legal pressure, to repatriate antiques without proper paperwork. About 450 cuneiform tablets and 3,000 old seals known as bullae were sent back to Iraq in 2017, and the Hobby Lobby fined $ 3 million.

In 2018, the museum announced that experts had concluded that five out of 16 fragments believed to have been part of the Dead Sea Scrolls were forgeries and removed them from the exhibit. It also returned an item known as the “Gilgamesh Dream Tablet,” which contains part of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It was found in Iraq in 1853 and bought by Hobby Lobby at auction in 2014 for $ 1.6 million.

The museum, a 430,000-square-foot structure three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, says its mission is to keep the Bible relevant to modern times. The collection of Bibles from the 10th century was welcomed by scholars.

“We first offered to return these items in March 2018 and are pleased that they are now in the care of their rightful owners, the Egyptian government,” said Jeffrey Kloha, the museum’s chief curator.