Hobby Lobby, your friendly neighborhood arts and crafts supplier have been recently caught dealing with a different type of art. The company has been in the headlines recently for smuggling ancient artifacts from Iraq into the United States. The smuggling has been traced all the way back to 2009 when the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby became interested in assembling “a collection of cultural artifacts from the Fertile Crescent”. In December of 2010, an executive bought 5500 artifacts such as cuneiform tablets and clay bullae, were smuggled into the United States through the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Although experts presented compelling evidence pointing towards the fact that these artifacts may have been looted from historical sites in Iraq where this is a huge problem, the company still bought these items and smuggled them into the US “falsely label[ing] the shipments as “ceramics” and “samples”. Iraq has strict rules once it comes to artifacts as they consider all antiquities found on its soil property of the state, and the U.S. has its own strict restrictions on the importation of Iraqi artifacts.
With all of this now coming to light, the company has agreed to pay 3 million in fines and give up all the artifacts to the government. The government will post a notice online giving the artifacts’ owners 60 days to submit claims. After that, the Iraqi government may submit their own claim. The President of Hobby Lobby Steve Green has made it his mission to collects ancient Bibles and artifacts and says is is “consistent with the company’s mission and passion for the Bible.” The company has plead ignorance to the fact that they were dealing in stolen artifacts stating they were “new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process” despite the fact that experts had met with company executives and stressed that the origins of the artifacts were most likely Iraqi in origin and not from Turkey as they believed yet they still greenlighted the acquisition.