TEHRAN — This evening, when the Iranian presidential plane landed in Tehran, it purchased 3,506 magnificent clay tablets from the United States, where they had been kept on loan for nine decades.
The Achaemenid tablets were repatriated by the plane carrying President Ebrahim Raisi, who addressed the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly during his visit to New York.
The recovered collection includes 836 small tablets written in Aramaic and 2,670 large tablets with Elamite cuneiform inscriptions, CHTN reported.
The royal tablets were shipped in nine boxes, each weighing 75 kg, according to the report. They are believed to have been produced during the reign of Darius I, commonly known as Darius the Great, who was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire, reigning from 522 BC until his death in 486 BC.
Earlier in August, Iran’s deputy minister of cultural heritage said the United States was preparing to return more than 20,000 Achaemenid clay tablets to Iran within months. “The good news is that more than 20,000 Achaemenid tablets belonging to Persepolis will be returned from the United States by the end of this year,” Ali Darabi said.
So far, hundreds of these tablets (and fragments), loaned since 1935 by Iran to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, have been repatriated. For example, in 2019, Iran received 1,783 of these important objects housed at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.
In February 2018, after years of ups and downs, the fate of these ancient Persian artifacts was left in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Iran.
Archaeologists affiliated with the University of Chicago discovered the tablets in the 1930s during excavations in Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire. However, the institute has resumed its work in collaboration with Iranian colleagues, and the return of the tablets is part of an expansion of contacts between researchers from the two countries, said Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
These are very important sources of information revealing economic, social and religious data about the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC) and the wider Near East region in the 5th century BC.
Persepolis, known locally as Takht-e Jamshid, was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It ranks among the unparalleled archaeological sites, given its unique architecture, urban planning, construction technology and art.
Accounts say that Persepolis was burned by Alexander the Great in 330 BC, apparently in revenge against the Persians, as it appears that the Persian king Xerxes had burned the Greek city of Athens around 150 years earlier.
It was the largest and most durable empire of its time, stretching from Ethiopia, through Egypt, to Greece, Anatolia (modern Turkey), Asia central and India at its peak.