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IraqSide:Iraqi Diary
EYE ON THE ARTS
Ancient Iraqi Cuneiform Found on Ebay
Zurich-Based Seller Under Investigation for Smuggling Antiquity Out of Iraq
12/18/2007 12:37 PM ET
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 29: Tablets and other stolen antiquities that were returned in recent days to the Iraqi National Museum are displayed at the museum April 29, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Mario Tama/AFP/Getty
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 29: Tablets and other stolen antiquities that were returned in recent days to the Iraqi National Museum are displayed at the museum April 29, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq.

UNESCO advisories regarding the valuables looted from Baghdad's National Museum have done much to stem the buying and selling of stolen Iraqi antiquities, but it took a German archaeologist with a keen eye and memory to spot one listed for auction recently on the Swiss Ebay.

The Guardian reports a 4,000-year-old clay tablet bearing wedge-shaped cuneiform script, similar to the ones pictured above, was pulled from eBay just minutes before the close of the online auction last week.

After recognizing the significance of the piece, the archaeologist alerted German authorities, who notified their Swiss counterparts, who contacted Ebay to have the item pulled from the website and set to tracking down the tablet and investigating its provenance.

Zurich police confiscated the business card-sized antiquity from a storage facility, and have identified the seller only as a resident of the city. Officials said the tablet, which dates from around 2000 BC, was "with great probability" smuggled out of Iraq.

If convicted of breaking the Swiss embargo on the transfer of Iraqi cultural goods removed from the country after 1990, the seller may face a fine of up to 500,000 Swiss francs (£215,000) or a prison sentence.

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