The Completion of the Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the U.S.

The Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the U.S. was concluded on December 8, 2013 after a one-week extension to the original schedule. The tour, which was organized by the British Museum in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF America) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, attracted more than 300,000 visitors as it traveled to five major urban areas within the country.

The Directors

During the final days of the tour, the J. Paul Getty Museum hosted the director of the British Museum at the Getty Villa – where the Cyrus Cylinder exhibition was on display – for a lively on-stage conversation between the two museum directors. In addition to touching upon key aspects of the Persian Empire and the significance of the Cyrus Cylinder, the directors answered to questions from the audience.

The touring exhibition The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia traveled from Washington DC to Houston, then New York City, then San Francisco, and Finally Los Angeles. The exhibition will next be on display in Mumbai, India before returning to London.

Dr John Curtis Appointed CEO of Iran Heritage Foundation and IHF America

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Iran Heritage Foundation announces the appointment of Dr John Curtis OBE FBA as Chief Executive Officer of IHF and IHF America effective January 1st, 2014. Dr Curtis joins Iran Heritage Foundation from the British Museum where he was Keeper of the Middle East Department until 2011 and is currently Keeper of Special Middle East Projects.

The Trustees welcome Dr. John Curtis in this leadership position with great enthusiasm,” said Alireza Rastegar, Chairman of IHF America and trustee of Iran Heritage Foundation. “In addition to working with IHF on two major exhibitions in the past, John has been working very closely with IHF America over the past two years on organizing the highly successful ‘Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia’ touring exhibition which has been on display in five major U.S. cities, currently in Los Angeles, and visited so far by more than a quarter of a million visitors.

Dr John Curtis is a leading scholar and a pioneering archeologist specializing on the history of Middle East, and particularly ancient Iran with more than 100 published articles and 20 books.

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said: “I congratulate John on becoming CEO of the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF). John has made an extraordinary contribution to the work of the British Museum as head of the Department of the Middle East and, over the past decade, through his outstanding engagement with the archaeology and heritage of Iraq, which is now culminating in the opening of a new museum in Basrah. John has also been committed to increasing our understanding of the importance and significance of Iranian culture, most prominently through the creation of a new Iranian Gallery at the Museum and two groundbreaking exhibitions on Ancient Persia and the rule of Shah Abbas (both of which were generously supported by the IHF). I am delighted that he will continue to support the work of the British Museum with ongoing responsibility for special Middle Eastern projects. The British Museum looks forward to continuing to work in collaboration with John and the Trustees of the Iran Heritage Foundation on future projects highlighting the varied and vital cultures of Iran.

Dr John Curtis said: “Over the last 18 years the IHF has done a great deal to promote the cultural heritage of Iran, and it is a great honour to be given the chance to build on that foundation. Together with the Trustees I look forward to initiating and supporting projects about all aspects of Iranian cultural heritage and raising awareness of the great contribution of Iran to world civilization.

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About Dr John Curtis OBE FBA

John Curtis studied Near Eastern archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology in London and joined the British Museum in 1971. From 1989 to 2011 he was Keeper of the Middle East Department and since 2011 he has been Keeper of Special Middle East Projects. He specializes in the archaeology and history of Iran and Iraq from 1000 BC to 330 BC and has travelled and excavated extensively in both countries. He curated the special exhibitions ‘Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia’ (British Museum 2005–6) and ‘The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: a New Beginning for the Middle East’ that was shown in Tehran and is now touring the USA

Dr Curtis has written or edited more than 20 books and more than 100 scholarly articles. Seven of his books have been translated into Persian. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (BFA) in 2003 and was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2006. He is a corresponding member of the German Archaeological Institute and the Archaeological Institute of America. He has received special awards from the Iran Heritage Foundation in 2005 and 2013. He is married to Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, curator of Middle Eastern coins at the British Museum, and they have two grown–up children

About IHF America

IHF America is a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and preserving Persian culture, history, languages, and art, and is the U.S. counterpart of the Iran Heritage Foundation, the leading supporter of Iranian Studies in the U.K.

IHF maintains relationships and institutional partnerships with more than 30 major museums and universities across Europe and North America. Leveraging nearly two decades of cultural work, IHF promotes academic research through establishing Iranian Studies programs, fellowships, grants, scholarships, publications, and digitization efforts.

Through association with leading museums and universities IHF organizes exhibitions and convenes conferences on the history and contemporary culture of Iran. The long-awaited Cyrus Cylinder tour of the U.S., organized through a partnership between the British Museum, IHF, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, is among such efforts bringing one of the most iconic objects surviving the ancient world to five major U.S. cities.

IHF America is a US-based registered 501(c)(3) public charity and its mission and programs are non-political and non-religious.

Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore – International Conference at UCLA

IHF America is proud to be a co-sponsor of the UCLA International Conference Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore, taking place on Oct 28-29, 2013.

On the occasion of the Cyrus Cylinder being exhibited in Los Angeles, Iranian Studies at UCLA -one of the largest and most comprehensive programs of its kind in Americas – is convening an international symposium “Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore” to discuss the historical figure of Cyrus the Great, his world, and later reception in antiquity and beyond. This gathering of prominent scholars from a wide variety of disciplines shall, as we hope, contribute not only to the important discussion on Cyrus’ new political order and religious policy, but also gauge his impact on posterity.

The conference is organized by UCLA Iranian Studies in collaboration with the Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies and the Musa Sabi Chair in Iranian Studies, and is sponsored by Farhang Foundation and IHF America, with additional support of Semnani Family Foundation. Please see below for details and program:

Final Stop of the Tour: Cyrus Cylinder now in Los Angeles

The exhibition The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning is now open to the public at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles. The 9-week period (Oct 2nd – Dec 2nd, 2013) is the last chance for people who live in the U.S. to see this iconic object, before it travels to Mumbai, India for another exhibition.

The Cyrus Cylinder at the Getty Villa

Prior to traveling to Los Angeles, the exhibition has been viewed by a quarter of a million visitors:

The Los Angeles display of the exhibition at the Getty Villa is generously sponsored by Farhang Foundation. During the 9 weeks of the Los Angeles stop of the exhibition, a number of events and educational programs are arranged at the Getty Villa:

Symposium

Cyrus the Great and the Persian Empire: Perspectives from Antiquity to Today

Since its discovery in 1879, the Cyrus Cylinder has prompted wide-ranging discussion about the benevolent nature of Cyrus’s rule. At this one-day symposium, experts address a range of perspectives from which the Cylinder—and the Achaemenid Empire generally—have been understood. Speakers will consider Babylonian precursors, the Persian and Jewish traditions, the ancient Greek view, and the representation of Cyrus in modern Iran. Symposium fee $15. Generous support for this program was provided by the J. Paul Getty Museums Villa Council.

Sunday, October 27, 2013; 10:15 a.m.–5:15 p.m., Auditorium

Learn More

Lectures

The Cyrus Cylinder: The Discovery and Creation of an Icon

John Curtis, Keeper of Special Middle Eastern Projects at the British Museum, speaks about the Cyrus Cylinder, an ancient clay cylinder inscribed by the Persian king Cyrus the Great after he conquered Babylon (present-day Iraq) in 539 B.C. Curtis explores the reasons for the cylinder’s historical significance and the importance it has acquired since its discovery in 1879. Free; a ticket is required.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013; 7:30 p.m., Auditorium

Learn More

Empire, Authority, and Autonomy in the Achaemenid Persian Empire

The Achaemenid Persian Empire (about 550–330 B.C.) was enormous and incorporated many different cultures. Before rapid transit or instant communication, how were affairs of governance conducted in a sociopolitical entity of this size? Archaeologist Elspeth Dusinberre examines government archives, food, alcohol, gender relations, and even the original Pony Express to illuminate how the empire founded by Cyrus the Great functioned. Co-presented with the Archaeological Institute of America. Free; a ticket is required. Tickets available beginning Thursday, October 10, 2013.

Saturday, November 2, 2013; 2:00 p.m., Auditorium

Gallery Course

Cyrus to Alexander: Persians, Greeks, and the Invention of History

The Greeks feared, admired, and maligned the Persians from before Cyrus until after Alexander the Great. Explore the Greek view through tales and art with educator Shelby Brown, then compare the Persian perspective and try your hand at cuneiform. The course ends with a tour of the exhibition The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning. Course fee $35 (includes refreshments). Complimentary parking.

Saturday, October 19, 2013; 2:00–4:30 p.m., Repeats Sunday, October 20, 2013; 2:00–4:30 p.m, Meeting Rooms

Studio Courses

Proclamations in Clay

Join artist Anna Mayer for a ceramic workshop pairing language and clay. Begin with an exploration of the exhibition The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning. In the studio, learn hand-building techniques to create ceramic cylinders and vessels inscribed with your own text dedications. Ceramics will be fired following the course for later pick-up. Course fee $150 (includes materials and lunch). Complimentary parking.

Sunday, October 27, 2013; 10:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Repeats Sunday, November 17, 2013; 10:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Education Studio and Museum galleries

Culinary Workshop: Ancient Persia

Discover the flavors of the ancient Near East with chef and educator Maite Gomez-Rejón. Tour the exhibition The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning and pick herbs in the garden to prepare and enjoy a meal showcasing the multiethnic cuisine of the Persian Empire. Course fee $85. Complimentary parking. Tickets available beginning Tuesday, October 2, 2013.

Thursday, November 14, 2013; 11:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Repeats Friday, November 15, 2013; 11:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Meeting Rooms and Museum galleries

Performance

Twinklings of Hope: Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat in Concert

The music of Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat reflects the evolution of Persian song. Part of a new generation of musicians who are university educated and devoted to their artistic cause, the Vahdats uphold a waning tradition in today’s Iran. Tickets $25. Generous support for this program was provided by the J. Paul Getty Museums Villa Council.

Saturday, October 19, 2013; 7:30 p.m., Sunday, October 20, 2013; 3:30 p.m., Auditorium

Family Activity

Scribes Wanted!

Drop by with your family to learn how scribes in ancient Persia created documents such as the Cyrus Cylinder. Try your hand at writing your own cuneiform (a type of old script) message! This is a free, drop-in program.

Saturdays, October 5– 26, 2013; 11:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Outer Peristyle

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The Cyrus Cylinder, now at the Asian Art Museum San Francisco

The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning is now on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. For photos and details, please see The San Francisco Opening.

The exhibition will be open to the public during the museum’s regular hours (details). Access to the exhibition is included in the price of the general admission ticket.

On August 9th, The exhibition will open with a press preview event, followed by a panel discussion “The Cyrus Cylinder: Uses, Misuses, and Contemporary Iran with some of the well known scholars and figures in the field (tickets), moderated by the director of the Asian Art Museum.

During the opening weekend, PAAIA, the local sponsor of the exhibition, held a number of programs including a gala commemorating Cyrus the Great and a retreat with panels on various topics. In particular, On August 10th (7:00pm) the San Francisco Philharmonic Orchestra performed Loris Tjeknavorian’s “King Cyrus Symphonic Suite” at the Nob Hill Masonic Center (tickets). This was the world premiere of the newly expanded suite which, conducted by the composer himself and presented by PAAIA.

The museum has an array of events, including member-only exhibition tours, during the six-week display of  The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning. For a list of museum events around the Cyrus Cylinder exhibition, please click here.

Cyrus Cylinder exhibition at the Asian Art Museum San Francisco (load images to see the pictures).

250,000 Visitors in DC, Houston, NYC; Heading to West Coast

The display of the exhibition “Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia” in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is now concluded, and the exhibition is traveling to the west coast. This touring exhibition, which is organized by the British Museum in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF America), has been on display since March of this year and has been viewed by a whopping 250,000 visitors in three major cities so far — for photos click on the images below.

Here is a recap of some of the key articles and content about the the tour, and the significance of the Cyrus Cylinder itself:

You can find more articles, complete archive of the videos, and the most recent coverage on the official website of the tour (cyruscylinder2013.com) and on the tour’sfacebook page.

The exhibition will now be on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (Aug 9 – Sep 22, see below for details), followed by the Paul J. Getty Museum, the Getty Villa, in Los Angeles (Oct 2 – Dec 2).

Photos from the New York display of the exhibition, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Photo - Cyrus Cylinder at the Metropolitan Museum NYC (load images to see the pictures).
Photos from the Houston display of the exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts:
Photo - The Cyrus Cylinder exhibition at the MFA Houston (load images to see the pictures).
Photos from the DC display of the exhibition, Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery:
Photo - Cyrus Cylinder exhibition - Launch of the U.S. tour in DC (load images to see the pictures).
The Special issue of the FEZANA Journal, which was published in celebration of the Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the U.S., includes a series of articles from foundations, scholars, journalists, etc focused on Cyrus and the Cyrus Cylinder. The issue is an invaluable resource to anybody who is interested in the subject:
I AM CYRUS: Fezana Journal Special Cyrus Cylinder Issue (load images to see the pictures).

Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the US: 7 Years in the Making

The following article, published in the FEZANA Journal Summer 2013, provides a good history of how the Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the US came about. The tour, which started in March 2013, is organized through a partnership between the British Museum, the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF America), and the Smithsonian (Freer|Sackler Galleries), and is hosted by five major museums across the country. The touring exhibition has so far been in Washington DC, Houston, and New York, visited by about 250,000 viewers. It will be traveling to San Francisco and Los Angeles next.

The Cyrus Cylinder, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Cyrus Cylinder and its accompanying objects are now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibition is entitled The Cyrus Cylinder and the Ancient Persia: Charting a New Empire.

A unique aspect of the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum will be its display within the galleries of Ancient Near Eastern Art, where objects from the permanent collection—including the famous lions from Babylon—will provide a stunning backdrop. Also on display will be works of art from the Metropolitan’s Department of Drawings and Prints and Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts that celebrate Cyrus and his legacy as a liberal and enlightened ruler.

An Interview with Abolala Soudavar on the Cyrus Cylinder

In time for the arrival of the Cyrus Cylinder in Houston, the Asheghaneh magazine — the Persian publication of the greater Houston area which has been in print for 30 years — has interviewed Abolala Soudavar. Mr. Soudavar is an independent scholar and author, former trustee of MFA Houston, former member of visiting committees at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the Smithsonian; and a trustee of IHF America.

Mr. Soudavar has been very influential in organizing the US tour of the Cyrys Cylinder, and with the tour in full motion he is now pleased to step back from the logistics of the tour and spend more time on his next book. His recent articles include Cyrus, Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zion on the positive symbolism of the Cyrus Cylinder in 2013, and Astyages, Cyrus and Zoroaster: Solving a Historical Dilemma published by the British Institute of Persian Studies (London), in vol. L, 2012.

 

President Bush Sr. Acknowledges Cyrus Cylinder in Houston

We are honored to receive a letter from the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush on the occasion of the arrival of the Cyrus Cylinder in Houston. The letter was sent to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and was announced during the opening dinner by Gary Tinterow, Director of the MFAH. In the letter, president Bush and his wife Barbara thank the British Museum and the Iran Heritage Foundation, and send greetings to Ambassador and Mrs. Ansary who were the leading supporters of the Houston exhibition as well the guests of the opening event.

Letter from President George H.W. Bush recognizing the Cyrus Cylinder and its arrival in Houston.

Letter from President George H.W. Bush recognizing the Cyrus Cylinder and its arrival in Houston.

Behind the Scenes: Installing the Cyrus Cylinder

The following photo essay provides a glimpse into the delicate and careful installation of the Cyrus Cylinder into its display box. The installation is done by Wendy Adamson, Senior Museum Assistant at the British Museum, and is supervised by Dr. John Curtis, the curator of the exhibition and the Keeper of the Department of Ancient Near East, and Keeper of Special Projects, at the British Museum.

 

Left to Right: Nasser Manesh (General Manager, IHF America), Chelsea Dacus (Assistant Curator, MFA Houston), Frances Marzio (Chief Curator, MFA Houston), John Curtis (Keeper of the Department of Ancient Near East, British Museum). Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Getting Ready for the installation: Left to Right: Nasser Manesh (General Manager, IHF America), Chelsea Dacus (Assistant Curator, MFA Houston), Frances Marzio (Chief Curator, MFA Houston), John Curtis (Keeper of the Department of Ancient Near East, British Museum). Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

 

Installation of the big banner next to the exhibition space. Photo: Mandana Fard / IHF America

Installation of the big banner next to the exhibition space. Photo: Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Wendy Adamson (British Museum), performing the installation. Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Reza Ganji / IHF America

Photo by Reza Ganji / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Left to Right: Dr. John Curtis (British Museum), Nasser Manesh (IHF America), Wendy Adamson (British Museum). Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Left to Right: Dr. John Curtis (British Museum), Nasser Manesh (IHF America), Wendy Adamson (British Museum). Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

 

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

 

Left to Right: Nasser Manesh (IHF America), Frances Marzio (MFA Houston), John Curtis (British Museum)

Left to Right: Nasser Manesh (IHF America), Frances Marzio (MFA Houston), John Curtis (British Museum)

Left to Right: Frances Marzio, John Curtis. Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Left to Right: Frances Marzio, John Curtis. Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

After 155,000 DC Viewers, The Cyrus Cylinder Now in Houston

After being viewed by more than 155,000 visitors in DC, the Cyrus Cylinder has now arrived in Houston and will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts from May 3rd through June 14. Please visit the Houston Opening page for photos of the opening dinner and reception, and the Behind the Scenes page for a backstage view of the installation of the Cyrus Cylinder.

For more information about the Cyrus Cylinder tour of the US, please see the video of the launch of the tour in DC, the Amanpour / MacGregor interview with full transcript as well as the three opening remarks. You can also view the press coverage.

Banner outside of MFA Houston - Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

Banner outside of MFA Houston – Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: Exhibition at the MFA Houston. Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: Exhibition at the MFA Houston. Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

 

The Cyrus Cylinder - At MFA Houston. Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

The Cyrus Cylinder – At MFA Houston. Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

Iranian-Jewish Dialog on the Cyrus Cylinder at GMU

Panel co-hosted by NIAC, CRDC, and FEZANA:

On March 28th, the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution (CRDC), Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America (FEZANA), and National Iranian American Council (NIAC) held a shared panel and celebration in honor of the presence in Washington of the Cyrus Cylinder and its significance for the peaceful interaction of civilizations based on universal human rights and human dignity. The video can be viewed here. More information, plus a second video of the Q&A session can be found here. The event was followed by music and festivities. Photos here:

 

 

Photo of the panel – courtesy of the GMU website:

Panelists, left to right: Dr. Marc Gopin, Dr. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz, Dr. Shaul Bakhash, and Dr. Trita Parsi

Left to right: Dr. Marc Gopin, Dr. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz, Dr. Shaul Bakhash, and Dr. Trita Parsi

Rep. Henry Waxman: House Resolution Honoring Cyrus Cylinder

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has sponsored a bipartisan resolution on March 20th, the beginning of the Iranian New Year, “Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz and acknowledging the Cyrus Cylinder as a symbol of respect for human rights and religious tolerance.” The proposed resolution has 13 cosponsors from California, Maryland, and New York.

The proposed resolution can be found on CONGRESS.GOV website, and the full text is shown below:

Images of the Sackler Exhibition

Images of the exhibition “The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia, A New Beginning” as displayed at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in DC are now available. Most of the images cover the Cyrus Cylinder itself, as well as some of the other objects accompanying the Cyrus Cylinder from the British Museum collection, and the Thomas Jefferson’s personal copy of Cyropaedia.

View the images of the exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery.

The Cyrus Cylinder US Tour Launches in DC

With an inaugural reception and dinner, and an exclusive viewing of the exhibition The Cyrus Cylinder and the Ancient Persia: A New Beginning, the US tour of the Cyrus Cylinder officially starts on March 5th. Between now and March 9th, which is when the exhibition is open to the public, press and media will have access to the exhibition and key individuals including curators from the British Museum and the Sackler Gallery, as well as trustees and management of IHF America, the official sponsor of the tour, for interviews, filming, and photography.

We invite you to view a brief video and photos of the launch event at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

You can also see images of the Cyrus Cylinder exhibition at the Sackler Gallery.

You can also visit the latest press coverage of the tour.

The Cyrus Cylinder Leaving the British Museum for the US (BBC Persian Video)

The Cyrus Cylinder Tour has official started… On February 19th Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) and the British Museum held a “send-off” (بدرقه) event at the British Museum as the Cyrus Cylinder gets ready to leave the UK for its US tour.

The Cyrus Cylinder will be on display at five major museums across the US through this touring exhibition. The tour is arranged through a partnership between IHF America, the British Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Smithsonian Institution) where the Cyrus Cylinder will debut on March 9th, 2013.

This is BBC Persian’s coverage of the event (voice-over in Persian). For a version with English voice-over please scroll down and see the second video:

Below you can find the same video by Kasra Naji of BBC, with English voice-over. The two scholars interviewed on the video are Karen Armstrong (author, scholar, TED speaker) and John Curtis, the long-time Keepr of the Middle East Collection of the British Museum:

In her speech at the send-off event, Haleh Anvari, the Executive Director of the Iran Heritage Foundation, said:

“…our mission was defined: to support Iranian studies, to preserve and promote Iranian history, arts and culture. In these eighteen years, IHF has been able to achieve this rather extensive remit through close partnerships with world renowned scholars, universities and cultural institutions such as the British Museum.”

“We at the Iran Heritage Foundation are proud of our close association and friendship with the British Museum which has resulted in a historic first; The Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the US.”

Cyrus Cylinder Tour Dates and Venues

The Cyrus Cylinder will start its tour in Washington in March 2013, and will tour five major museums along its way to Los Angeles where the tour will be concluded in December 2013:

Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
March 9th through April 28th 2013

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
May 3rd through June 14th 2013

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
June 20th through August 4th 2013

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA
August 9th through September 22nd 2013

J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, Los Angeles, CA
October 2nd through December 2nd 2013

 

TED Talk on Cyrus Cylinder

Cyrus Cylinder has been at the center of many stories and events. For a fascinating account of its role and importance in the context of international relations we encourage you to watch the TED talk by Dr. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museums, which was delivered upon returning the Cylinder from Iran in 2011:

 

The Significance of the Cyrus Cylinder

Clay cuneiform tablet fragment, 539-538 BC, Achaemenid

Clay cuneiform tablet fragment, 539-538 BC, Achaemenid

The Cyrus Cylinder has a cross-cultural significance. People from different backgrounds, nationalities, and religions recognize it as relevant and important. A replica of the Cyrus Cylinder is kept at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, on the second floor hallway. The main reason for this is how the Cyrus Cylinder is symbolic of tolerance and freedom.

The Cyrus Cylinder tells an amazing story: Cyrus conquers Babylon, and what does this king of kings, this greatest king chosen by god, this most powerful man in “the four corners of the world” do? He sets all the peoples free, lets them go back to their homes and homelands.

Most amazingly, he lets them recover their statues and gods – all the things that were confiscated as symbols of victory – and go back to their lives and religions, worshiping their gods in their own way and in their own temples. This is what sets the Cyrus Cylinder apart from a number of other ancient objects. The message is one of tolerance, peace, and multi-culturalism. It portrays a very modern way of ruling with pluralism and tolerance at its core. No wonder many have called the Cyrus Cylinder “the first bill of human rights.”

It is fascinating that 2600 years later, the Cyrus Cylinder still unites people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions in cherishing the wisdom of tolerance.

Iranians are proud of the Cyrus Cylinder because it was a Persian King who decided to break the tradition and allowed deported peoples to return home.

To Jewish people the story told by the Cyrus Cylinder is a magnificent one, as it corroborates the events in the Old Testament about King Cyrus allowing captive Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. In fact, in the book of Ezra, King Cyrus permits the Jewish exiled people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

Even the founding fathers of the United States sought inspiration from Cyrus, what he did in Babylon as described by the Cyrus Cylinder, and how he ran a country. Thomas Jefferson owned two personal copies of Xenophon’s book Cyropaedia – the Education of Cyrus – which was “a mandatory read for statesmen.”

What is the Cyrus Cylinder?

The Cyrus Cylinder has been called “the first declaration of human rights.” It is a barrel-shaped baked clay cylinder, and despite popular belief it’s not a big object: It’s about 23cm long and 10cm wide.

This clay cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform – a form of wedge-shaped writing – about Cyrus, king of Persia (559-530 BC) and his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, capturing Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king. The cylinder was discovered more than 130 years ago in the ruins of Babylon in Iraq. It was excavated in several fragments. The cylinder was glued together straight away, and was read by Theophilus Pinches and Henry Rawlinson at the British Museum.

The text on the Cylinder is a declaration about the Iran/Iraq war – not the one that started in 1980, but the one in 539 B.C., in the name of the Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great, resulting in the conquest of Babylon in 539. It establishes Cyrus as a king from a lineage of kings, and denounces the previous king of Babylon, but then it talks about peace.

It tells how the god of Babylon – the conquered land – has chosen Cyrus to improve the lives of the Babylonians, and it talks about Cyrus’s efforts in repatriating displaced people and restoring temples across Mesopotamia, letting them worship the god of their choice, not the god of the conqueror. It tells the story of letting people living their lives even after their country was conquered, something that was not heard of at the time. In the ancient world and many years to come, conquering a new land would mean “owning” the land and its people.

Cyrus claims to have achieved this with the aid of Marduk, the god of Babylon. He then describes measures of relief he brought to the inhabitants of the city, and tells how he returned a number of images of gods, which Nabonidus had collected in Babylon, to their proper temples throughout Mesopotamia and western Iran. At the same time he arranged for the restoration of these temples, and organized the return to their homelands of a number of people who had been held in Babylonia by the Babylonian kings. Although the Jews are not mentioned in this document, their return to Palestine following their deportation by Nebuchadnezzar II, was part of this policy.

This cylinder has sometimes been described as the ‘first charter of human rights’, but it in fact reflects a long tradition in Mesopotamia where, from as early as the third millennium BC, kings began their reigns with declarations of reforms.