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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World

 

Cyrus the Great' Cylinder returns to the UK in one piece

 

18 April 2011

 

 

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Cyrus Cylinder, World's first Charter of Human Rights

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Cyrus Cylinder being carried away from the National Museum of Iran (Click to enlarge)

 

LONDON, (CAIS) -- The Cyrus the Great Cylinder, described as the world's first Charter of Human Rights returned to the British Museum on Monday, following the seven-month loan to the National Museum of Iran (NMI).

 

The priceless Cylinder arrived in the UK just after the cultural authorities in Iran severed ties with the Louvre over the French museum’s decision not to lend Iranian antiquities to NMI.

 

The British Museum said the artefact would go back on display in its ancient Iran gallery (Room 52) on Tuesday.

 

Prior to loaning, the cylinder caused difficulties between the two countries when the Islamic Republic threatened to cut ties with the British Museum if it did not lend the Persian artefact.

 

Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been strained by Iran's disputed nuclear program that Britain and other Western countries led by the US, accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons; the same was claimed about Saddam Hussain, which resulted in the invasion of Iraq in 2003; and the evidence to support their allegations proved to be fabricated. Iran also believes Britain is provoking and arming Arab immigrants residing in Iran’s oil rich Khuzestan Province as well as supporting terrorists groups active in Sistan-va-Balucestan Province to destabilise the country.

 

In addition, a number of Iranian academics and oppositions objected the loaning of the cylinder to Iran, since the safety could not be guaranteed; a four-month loan was eventually agreed in September 2010. The cylinder was escorted by a British delegation headed by Dr John Curtis to the exhibition site, where it was displayed for the first time after 40 years during the 2,500 Year Celebration of Iranian Monarchy in 1971.

 

The duration of the loan was extended in December 2010, due to the exhibition’s popularity. Over two million Iranians have viewed this priceless artefact while it was on display in NMI.

 

The presence of Cyrus the Great Cylinder in Iran has proved immensely significant, as it was provided an opportunity for the majority of Iranians and non-governmental cultural establishments to promote a ‘nationalist narrative’, which predates Islam for thousands of years, once again since 1979 without fear of prosecution. Therefore, the bete noir of the artefact was the highest echelons for the Mullahs in Iran, as they boycotted the exhibition and called it the ‘work of Zionists’.

 

The Mullahs and fundamentalists were only too ecstatic to see the back of the Cylinder.

 

Cyrus the Great Cylinder was found during a British Museum excavation at Babylon in Iraq in 1879, and has been in the British Museum since that time. It was originally inscribed and buried in the foundations of a wall after Cyrus the Great, considered by Iranians as the ‘Father of Nation’, captured Babylon in 539 BCE.

 

The Cylinder records that aided by the god Marduk, Cyrus took Babylon without any struggle, restored shrines dedicated to different gods and repatriated deported peoples who had been brought to Babylon. It was this decree that allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Because of these enlightened acts, which were rare in antiquity, the Cylinder has acquired a special resonance, and is valued by people all around the world as a symbol of tolerance and respect for different peoples and different faiths. These are the qualities for which Cyrus is revered in the Hebrew Bible.

 

Two fragments of a tablet were also found in the19th century British Museum excavations in or near Babylon. These fragments were identified by experts at the Museum in January 2010 as being inscribed with parts of the same text as the Cylinder but do not belong to it. Initially, they show that the text of the Cylinder was probably a proclamation that was widely distributed across the Persian Empire (550-330 BCE). In August 2010, however the extracts of Cyrus the Great Cylinder were also discovered in China.

 

The extracts were carved with cuneiform inscriptions on two fossilised horse bones. They were initially dismissed as fakes because of the improbability of ancient Persian texts turning up in Beijing, but following an in-depth research, the BM specialist Irving Finkel was convinced of their authenticity.  With the findings become clear that the proclamation were widely distributed beyond the borders of the Persian Empire.

 

Although the Cyrus Cylinder is called the world's oldest human rights document, Eurocentrics, anti-Semitics and Muslim fundamentalists alike claim it was common in Mesopotamia for a king to begin their rule with such reform declarations, despite the fact that no such a creed has ever been discovered to support their claim.

 

 

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