Whenever Hobby Lobby is in the news, you can pretty safely assume that it’s not for something good. The arts-and-crafts giant has a special knack for causing controversies. One of their more head-scratching controversies, though, is their history with stolen ancient artifacts.

Yes, this arts-and-crafts store is a lot like Indiana Jones, except instead of being a professor by day and adventurer by night, they sell art supplies and then buy priceless artifacts through sketchy auctions. The history between Hobby Lobby and archaeological treasures from the Middle East has been well-documented, and they have faced hefty fines for prior offenses. Apparently, they didn’t learn their lesson because they recently had to forfeit even more artifacts.

In late July, the Department of Justice ordered that Hobby Lobby was required to forfeit a 3,500-year-old tablet, which contained cuneiform from the Epic of Gilgamesh. Hobby Lobby had purchased the tablet from an auction house in 2014. Steve Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby and a devout Evangelical, also operates the Museum of the Bible, which is where the Gilgamesh tablet and the thousands of other artifacts purchased by Hobby Lobby are put on display. This particular tablet had been seized in 2019 as part of an effort to return stolen artifacts.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

"So you know how your stores have a 'No Shoplifting' policy?"

While Hobby Lobby is certainly a major player in the illegal artifacts trade, it is hardly the only one. This forfeiture is part of an effort from the United States to return thousands of artifacts to Iraq. During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, tens of thousands of archaeological artifacts were looted. These artifacts often were smuggled and traded under false provenance. The Gilgamesh tablet, which was first sold at auction in 2003, had false paperwork claiming it was in a box with other ancient artifacts sold in the 1980s.

It may seem like a bummer that these ancient pieces of history are taken away from their homelands and thrown in the propaganda museum of an arts-and-crafts tycoon, but hey, there was a small glimmer of positivity to end on. Following more controversy for stolen artifacts in March 2020, Steve Green issued a statement. Green acknowledged that more than 10,000 artifacts in the Museum of the Bible had less-than-trustworthy origins, and he committed to sending them back to Iraq and Egypt. So that’s progress. Kind of.

Top Image: Tony Webster/Wiki Commons

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