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Chicken-Fried News: Appropriated antiquities

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It turns out Oklahoma’s Green family has been much busier than we imagined. In addition to spending a large amount of time and money to avoid covering some forms of birth control on their employees’ insurance, they might have been knowingly bringing religious artifacts into the country by not-so-legal means.

The Daily Beast broke the story and reported that the Hobby Lobby owners have been under federal investigation since 2011 for “the illicit importation of cultural heritage from Iraq.”

The news website reported that the Green family bought 200-300 clay tablets featuring cuneiform writing — “the script of ancient Assyria and Babylonia, present-day Iraq” — and claimed on the FedEx shipment paperwork that they were “hand-crafted clay tiles” worth only $300.

The tablets were purchased for Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible, set to open in Washington, D.C., in 2017.

“There was a shipment and it had improper paperwork — incomplete paperwork that was attached to it,” Cary Summers, president of the museum, told The Daily Beast.

It would be helpful if the Greens could say they knew nothing about buying antiquities and could say it was an amateur mistake, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The Daily Beast reported that the Greens own “40,000 or so ancient artifacts” set to be displayed in the museum. And in 2010, they allegedly met with DePaul University law professor Patty Gerstenblith, who explained the intricacies of provenance (the record of ownership of a historical artifact) and how to legally purchase antiquities.

Despite that meeting, the Greens don’t seem too concerned about what is legal and what isn’t.

“Is it possible that we have some illicit [artifacts for the museum]? That’s possible,” CEO Steve Green told The Daily Beast for an upcoming article in The Atlantic.

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