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Persepolis Fortification Archive at center of lawsuits

The only known administrative tablet in Old Persian cuneiform.

The only known administrative tablet in Old Persian cuneiform.

The victims of two different terrorist attacks have filed two separate lawsuits, both of them competing for the right to auction the Persepolis Fortification Archive.

Chicago Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle are two of several news sources that have picked up the story: the Persepolis Fortification Archive, on loan from Iran and under the care of the Oriental Institute since the 1930s, might be seized to help pay for damages awarded to over 800 victims of terrorist attacks. The archive consists of thousands of inscribed clay tablets, all of them 2500 years old, that taken together are scholars’ best aid in understanding the everyday workings of the Persian empire.

The lawsuit comes from the survivors and family members of those who were killed in a 1983 Beirut car bombing and in a 1997 Jerusalem suitcase bombing. The victims were awarded over $3 billion in their lawsuits against Iran when the court found that Iran underwrote both attacks. Most of the victims have received no compensation, and both groups have now filed lawsuits calling for the Persepolis tablets to be auctioned to help pay for the damages.

Chicago Magazine quotes Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute:

“Selling off the cultural heritage of another country would make the U.S. look like barbarians,” [Stein] said. “These victims have every right to some sort of justice, but this isn’t the way. This is the justice of a pound of flesh, and that’s not justice at all.”

Readers can follow the story as it unfolds on the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project blog.

Posted in Making Headlines. Tagged with , .

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