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The Cyrus Cylinder, 539-538 BC, Achaemenid, clay

The Cyrus Cylinder, 539-538 BC, Achaemenid, clay

The Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF America), in partnership with the British Museum and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, is pleased to present the 2013 tour of the Cyrus Cylinder to the US, an historical first. The tour is hosted by five major museums across the country, and is officially underwritten and funded by IHF America in conjunction with sponsorships by a number of organizations, individual donors, and sponsors in each of the destination cities.

This tour, which was inaugurated on March 5th, 2013, is made possible through the long-lasting institutional relationship and close collaboration between the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) and the British Museum. For more than a decade, the IHF has worked with the BM to arrange high profile exhibitions, programs, publications, conferences, and seminars including Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia, and Shah ‘Abbas: The Remaking of Iran. The IHF has supported an “IHF Fellow” position at the British Museum since 1998, and one of its trustees has sponsored the new Rahim Irvani Gallery of Ancient Iran, the permanent home of the Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum.

Cyrus Cylinder is among the most important and iconic objects of the ancient world due to its modern interpretations. In fact, on the second floor hallway of the United Nations Headquarters, between the Security Council and the Economics and Social Council chambers, a replica of the Cyrus Cylinder is on display: An object that tells the story of the falling of the empire of Babylon, to Cyrus the Great, king of the Persian Empire, resulting in the creation of the first Great World Empire covering all the land that is today known as the Middle East – the first multi-cultural, multi-faith, and multi-lingual state of all time. The famous and fascinating TED talk by Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, is an excellent source for the context and significance of this story, and the importance of the Cyrus Cylinder in the history of Middle East.

Gold armlet (Oxus treasure), 5-4th century BC, Achaemenid

Gold armlet (Oxus treasure), 5-4th century BC, Achaemenid

During this tour, the Cyrus Cylinder will be accompanied with an exhibition of objects which are testimony to the innovations initiated by Persian rule in the Ancient Near East (550 BC – 331 BC). The exhibition is titled The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia, and is curated by John Curtis, Keeper of Special Middle East Projects at the British Museum. The objects include some items from the Oxus Treasure, including the famous gold bracelet.

People from different cultures, backgrounds, and religions take pride in the Cyrus Cylinder, and in that sense the cylinder is beyond a Persian document and artifact. It is one of the key documents portraying the history of Middle East, one of the most important and turbulent parts of the world today. It talks about how 2600 years ago a ruler decided to treat people with tolerance, and set them free to go back to their own faith, to their own beliefs, and to their own home. A ruler whose teachings were a source of inspiration to the Founding Fathers of the United States: Thomas Jefferson had two personal copies of Cyropaedia.

And yet, the United States people have not had a chance to actually see this important object up close. The Cyrus Cylinder has in fact rarely left the British Museum – its home since its excavation in 1879: Two tours to its homeland Iran, and one to Spain. IHF America and the Iran Heritage Foundation in the UK are proud to make it possible for the Cyrus Cylinder to travel to the US for the first time.

For more information about the tour, please see:

 

For more information about the Cyrus Cylinder please see: