At last week’s staff breakfast, John Curtis, Keeper of Special Middle East Projects at the British Museum, presented the Cyrus Cylinder and gave us an overview of its international tour.
The Cyrus Cylinder is a clay cylinder inscribed with Babylonian cuniform, which was found in Bablylon in 1879. The cuniform inscription describes King Cyrus the Great’s conquest of Babylon in 539 BC. It also mentions certain reforms including the restoration of shrines, and the return of deported peoples, and has thus been described as the ‘first charter of human rights’.
The cylinder is a foundation record, to be buried under a building to sanctify it, but it is much more than that, it is a proclamation of Cyrus’ victories and subsequent reforms, and there is evidence that copies were made and distributed.
The cylinder, usually on display at The British Museum, first went to the National Museum of Iran – drawing almost 500,000 visitors in its four months on display. The tour then went to five cities in the USA, where it is currently on display at the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and there are plans for it to continue its tour on to India.
Throughout the tour, there has been an emphasis on engagement with cultural and religious groups around the world who have a particular connection to the cylinder. In the USA, the exhibition at the Sackler Gallery in Washington DC, was blessed by a Zoroastrian priest and in LA, at the Getty Villa, a day of the exhibition is dedicated to Persian cultural groups.
Funding for the tour was from the Iran Heritage Foundation along with the host institutions.
To find out more about the Cyrus Cylinder and the tour please see: