Washington, DC – When it comes to human rights, Iran, with its oppressive government and poor human rights record, is not usually the first association that comes to mind. Yet despite the Iran the world has seen in recent history, an ancient artifact commissioned by the 6th century B.C. Persian king Cyrus the Great tells a different story.
Known as the Cyrus Cylinder, this cylindrical clay tablet inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform is widely viewed as the oldest known code of human rights. Since its 1879 discovery by Hormuzd Rassam on behalf of the British Museum during an excavation in Babylon (what now constitutes modern day Iraq) this ancient treasure has been revered worldwide. The significant historical contribution of the Cyrus Cylinder, which King Cyrus the Great ordered inscribed upon capturing Babylon in 539 B.C, is its call for freedom of worship across the vast and highly influential Persian Empire, as well as the right of return of deportees.
The British Museum has announced that in 2013 this relic will at last be available for viewing in the United States. Until now, Americans could only view a copy, held in the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Five U.S. museums will have the privilege of hosting the Cyrus Cylinder, which will begin its U.S. tour, sponsored by the Iran Heritage Foundation, at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC in March. Its debut in Washington, DC will be followed by appearances at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and a final stop in October at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles. The full exhibition dates can be found below.
Cyrus Cylinder U.S. Tour Dates:
• Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC: March 9th – April 28th, 2013