A 4,000 year old archaeological treasure thought to have been smuggled from Iraq was pulled from eBay Switzerland last week. Zurich police have confiscated the item and have launched criminal proceedings against the seller.
The auction was for a “business-card sized” clay tablet bearing cuneiform script – the wedge-shaped writing of the Sumerians – though its message has yet to be deciphered. It was spotted by a German archaeologist, who alerted the police. eBay stopped the sale just minutes before it was due to end.
Yves Fischer, the director of the Swiss federal office of culture’s department on commerce in cultural objects, said that the actual origin of the tablet was not yet known, but “if it’s a tainted object, then the goal will be to return it to Iraq.” If the seller is found guilty of trading in illegal cultural objects, they face a fine of up to half a million Swiss france (around Â£215,000).