Iran has claimed that thousands of clay tablets dating from the time of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia (550-330 BC) had been returned to it by the United States. “The Achaemenid tablets confiscated by the American government have been returned to the country,” indicates a press release published Thursday evening on the website of the Iranian presidency. The 3,506 tablets were brought back on the plane which brought the Iranian delegation back from New York after its participation in the United Nations General Assembly. This is the fifth batch of antiquities of this type returned to the Islamic Republic of Iran. “We hope that the rest of these tablets will be returned as soon as possible,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi said on Thursday upon his return from New York.
Found in the ruins of Persepolis, the capital of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia which ruled from the 6th to 4th centuries BC in southern Iran, the repatriated tablets show how ancient society was organized and its economy managed.
The tablets were returned to Iran by the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, Western Asia and North Africa at the University of Chicago, formerly known as the Oriental Institute. In the 1930s, the university received about 30,000 tablets or fragments of tablets found in Persepolis on loan for research purposes, according to Iranian media.
A large part of the tablets were returned in three installments from 1948 to 2004, before the rest were blocked by legal proceedings in the United States which ended in February 2018. But the reinstatement of American sanctions against the Islamic Republic since August 2018 complicated the return of antiquities to Iran.