Iraq’s Ministry of Culture announced on Sunday that it had repatriated 387 ancient historical tablets of clay from the University of Pennsylvania Museum in the United States. 

The collection consists of clay tablets with cuneiform script inscribed. A team of archeologists from the University of Pennsylvania and the British Museum unearthed the artifacts.

“The fragments were 4,000 years old and were excavated from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur during expedition between1922 to 1934 which were transferred to the Penn Museum at the time and stayed there for study,” the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.

Following “intensive efforts during the past months to retrieve the historical artifacts,” they will be delivered to the Iraqi embassy in Washington, DC, on Friday. Once they arrive at the embassy, the artifacts, along with thousands of other ancient artifacts that were recovered and stored at the embassy, will be shipped to Iraq for delivery to the Iraqi museum, the statement added.  

Brad Hafford, an archeologist at Penn Museum, said the tablets were shipped out for study “because no one in Iraq, at the time, could read them.”

According to Hafford, the stone tablets were records of economic transactions, which provided “insight into what goods were traded, where they came from, and how items were valued relative to one another and to amounts of silver.”

Iraq’s Ministry of Culture also said the University of Pennsylvania Museum would initiate a filed expedition in the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur, reconstructing damaged artifacts and temples and provide training for the staff at the Nasiriyah Museum.     

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