The items were returned by Minister of Culture Mohammed Murtada to Iraq’s ambassador to Lebanon during a ceremony held at the National Museum of Beirut.

The Iraqi state news agency saying the artefacts had been smuggled from Iraq.
The Iraqi state news agency saying the artefacts had been smuggled from Iraq. (AFP)

More than 300 ancient cuneiform writing tablets have been returned to Iraq from a private Lebanese museum, as part of Baghdad's widespread efforts to restore antiquities looted during years of war.

The 331 tablets bearing ancient cuneiform script were transported from the Nabu Museum in northern Lebanon to Baghdad, and received by an official Iraqi delegation at the National Museum of Beirut on Sunday.

"Today, Iraq has restored 331 cuneiform tablets," the director of the Iraqi council of antiquities and heritage, Laith Majid Hussein, told reporters.

The tablets date back to different eras, he added, ranging from the Akkadian empire starting in 2400 BC, to the third Sumerian dynasty of Ur and through to the ancient Babylonian empire, ending in 1594 BC.

Hussein thanked Lebanon for their cooperation, as well as the director of the Nabu Museum for having "facilitated the restoration".

First examples of cuneiform script

The kingdom of Ur, where some of the tablets are from, was founded more than 4,500 years ago, was one of the first centres of civilisation.

Built on the banks of the Euphrates river, it was the site of the first examples of writing in cuneiform script.

The Nabu museum, named after the Mesopotamian god of wisdom and writing, opened its doors in 2018 with a collection of antiquities, some over 3,000 years old, originating in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Yemen.

The returned pieces came from private collections, most notably that of Jawad Adra, husband of former Lebanese defence minister Zeina Akar.

His private collection includes some 2,000 pieces, according to the museum catalogue.

Iraq has seen its historical artefacts looted for decades, including since the invasion by the United States in 2003, and the rise of the Daesh group 10 years later.

Iraq has recovered more than 18,000 artefacts in one year, the vast majority of them from the United States.

In December, the Iraqi authorities held a ceremony to celebrate the return of the prized Gilgamesh tablet, dating back more than 3,500 years.

READ MORE: Looted ancient Gilgamesh tablet returns to Iraq after three decades

Source: TRTWorld and agencies