(CNN)Federal authorities want a rare, ancient artifact returned to Iraq after it was sold to a US craft store for $1.6 million in an auction.
In 2014, Hobby Lobby, a privately owned arts and crafts retailer whose president is also the chairman of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., bought the clay tablet for display in the museum from an international auction house for $1,674,000, according to a civil complaint filed by federal authorities on Monday. Hobby Lobby is now suing the auction house for fraud and breach of contract.
The tablet is inscribed with a portion of Gilgamesh, an epic poem considered one of the world's oldest works of literature, written in cuneiform -- a system of writing on clay tablets used in ancient Mesopotamia thousands of years ago.
The artifact, known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, "originated in the area of modern-day Iraq and entered the United States contrary to federal law," according a news release from the Department of Justice.
The tablet was seized from the Museum of the Bible by law enforcement agents in September 2019, according to a release from the Department of Justice. At the time of seizure, no court action was taken. On Monday, the civil complaint was filed seeking to forfeit the artifact to US authorities.