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University of Chicago not showing goodwill on return of Achaemenid tablets: official

TEHRAN, Jan. 26 (Mehr News Agency) -- The Scientific Secretary of the People's Committee for the Return of Cultural and Historical Property believes that the University of Chicago is not showing goodwill about the return of the Achaemenid tablets in their possession.

"When the tablets were handed over to the university, it had agreed to send the artifacts back after several years, but the university has still not fulfilled the agreement after 70 years," Ali-Mohammad Tarafdari told the Mehr News Agency on Friday.

"However, the university sent back a number of the tablets before the Islamic Revolution as well as in 2004 based on an agreement on the excavation of some ancient Iranian sites. Yet, a great number of the tablets still remain at the university," he added.

Last spring, U.S. District Court Judge Blanche Manning ruled that a group of people injured by a 1997 bombing in Israel could seize the 300 clay tablets loaned to the University of Chicago and the university cannot protect Iran's ownership rights to the artifacts.

Following Iranian officials' protests against the ruling, the court was slated to reexamine the case on December 21, but the court session was postponed to January 19, allegedly due to the fact that Iran had not provided all the documents necessary to the court.

According to Gil Stein, the director of the university's Oriental Institute, the court session was held on the above mentioned date, but no verdict was issued.

The case may take several years to resolve due to its complexities and both sides can appeal the court's decision, he told the MNA on January 22.

The tablets have not been seized, and the university is currently studying the artifacts, but according to the court order, they can not be relocated or removed from the institute, he added.

The institute holds 8000 to 10,000 intact and about 11,000 fragmented tablets, Stein estimated.

It takes a long time to decipher these tablets because only 12 people in the world can read such inscriptions, he noted.

The tablets were discovered by the University of Chicago archaeologists in 1933 while they were excavating in Persepolis, the site of a major Oriental Institute excavation.

The artifacts bear cuneiform script explaining administrative details of the Achaemenid Empire from about 500 BC. They are among a group of tens of thousands of tablets and tablet fragments that were loaned to the university's Oriental Institute in 1937 to be studied. A group of 179 complete tablets was returned in 1948, and another group of more than 37,000 tablet fragments was returned in 1951.

... Payvand News - 1/26/07 ... --

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