Iran in lawsuit with Univ. of Chicago over Ancient Persian Tablets





The US Federal Court held a hearing yesterday about the ancient Persian tablets loaned by Iran to the University of Chicago in the 1930s following the quarrel after a previous judgment authorized the plaintiff to auction off the invaluable Persian relics.

According to William Harms, the press contact of Chicago University, the results of Federal Court Case Jan. 19 on the Persian Tablets involving the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago were as follows:

The government of Iran, through its attorney, Thomas Corcoran, asserted ownership of the tablets and pointed out that its position is supported by the U.S. government;

The plaintiff's attorney, David J. Strachman, sought more materials from the University and Iran related to the case; and

The judge took the matter under advisement and did not immediately issue a ruling.

The chaos started when an American Federal Judge ordered to confiscate the invaluable collection of Persian tablets loaned to Chicago University's Oriental Institute and put them on auction to compensate Israeli victims of the1997 Jerusalem bombing. Since then, the government of Iran and authorities of University of Chicago have tried in a collective effort to redeem the Persian tablets.

Thousands of ancient tablets made of clay and impressed in cuneiform containing administrative details of the Persian heartland from about 500 BC were discovered in Persepolis, Iran, in 1933 by archeologists of the Oriental Institute of Chicago University and were lent to this institute four years later due to its request to carry out more studies on them.

According to Harms, in addition to administrative information on the Empire and its governance, the texts also contain seal impressions that indicate the existence of some otherwise-unknown administrative offices. The texts identify for the first time leaders of various portions of the Empire and expand on material in other non-Persian texts.

Furthermore, the tablets recording information about the life and languages of the people of the Persian Empire gave historians detailed information about the lifestyle of the people who lived in Ancient Persia centuries ago.

A group of 179 complete tablets was returned in 1948, and another group of more than 37,000 tablet fragments was returned in 1951. In addition, two years ago 300 pieces of these tablets were repatriated upon mutual agreement between Iranian cultural heritage authorities and the Oriental Institute of Chicago University. Yet there are still large numbers of tablets and clay fragments at Chicago University which Iran is trying to bring back home.


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