First Ever Cyrus Cylinder Tour Comes to the United States

November 29, 2012, Washington, D.C. – One of the most iconic objects of religious tolerance and multiculturalism, the Cyrus Cylinder, will for the very first time, be exhibited in the United States.  The Cylinder, currently housed in the British Museum, will be on display in five major museum venues in the U.S. starting in March 2013.

The Cyrus Cylinder tour is supported by the Iran Heritage Foundation of the United Kingdom. PAAIA is proud that, with support from some of its generous members, it will be co-sponsoring the Cyrus Cylinder exhibitions in New York City and San Francisco.

The Cyrus Cylinder tour will debut at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C. in March 2013 before travelling to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, concluding its journey at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles in October 2013.

“Rare are the individuals whose names are extolled in the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Old Testament, as being synonymous with virtue,” said Ali Mojdehi, Chairman of PAAIA’s Board of Directors.  “PAAIA is proud to play a part in supporting the ideals of peace, tolerance, freedom, and equality for which Cyrus and the Cyrus Cylinder stand.”

An object of world heritage, the Cyrus Cylinder is an ancient clay cylinder inscribed with a declaration in Babylonian cuneiform script in the name of the Persian king, Cyrus the Great. It was created following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C. The Cylinder has, over the
centuries, come to symbolize mankind’s first document on human rights. The United Nations promotes the Cylinder as “an ancient document of human rights” and a replica of the Cylinder is kept at the United Nations Headquarters.

The Cylinder’s text has traditionally been seen by Biblical scholars as corroborative evidence of Cyrus’ policy of the repatriation of the Jewish people following their Babylonian captivity.  The policies of Cyrus on the treatment of minority religions are well documented in Babylonian
texts as well as in Jewish sources and historical accounts.  His treatment of the Jewish people is also reported in the Bible and Cyrus is the only non-Jewish person to be designated as a Messiah, a divinely appointed leader, in the Torah.

“The Cylinder is a remarkable testament to Iran’s ancient history and the values of peace and tolerance that we hold dear,” said Bita Daryabari, founder and Executive Director of Pars Equality Center and one of the tour’s sponsors in San Francisco. “Its impact on humanity and cultural diversity is well-known throughout the world.”

“The Cyrus Cylinder is truly an object that indicates respect for human rights and a tolerance for the different faiths in ancient Iran,” added PAAIA Board Member, Asghar Nosrati, co- founder of Americo Energy resources and one of the sponsors of the Houston exhibition.

According to the press release issued by the British Museum, the Cylinder will travel with an exhibition of sixteen other objects under the title ‘The Cyrus Cylinder in Ancient Persia’. The exhibition shows the innovations initiated by Persian rule in the Ancient Near East (550 BC-331 BC). At that time, the Persian Empire was the largest empire the world had known. It had a significant impact on the ancient world, introducing changes in ethical behavior as witnessed in the proclamation on the Cyrus Cylinder. A gold plaque from the Oxus Treasure with the representation of a priest shows the spread of the Zoroastrian religion at that time, while a new writing system, Old Persian cuneiform, introduced by Persian kings, can be seen on part of a column base from Hamadan, and on the famous seal of Darius (522-486 BC). Persians also developed new forms of luxury goods including beautifully decorated gold and silver bowls and sumptuous gold bracelets featuring fantastic animal shapes, some of them from the Oxus Treasure.

“These items have never travelled to the United States before,” said Hamid Moghadam, Chairman and CEO of Prologis, Inc. and co-sponsor of the tour in San Francisco. “They include a statement that is considered the original bill of rights and a document that granted all citizens the freedom to practice their own religion”.

The tour dates for ‘The Cyrus Cylinder in Ancient Persia’ are as follows:

Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
March 9, 2013 – April 28, 2013

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
May 3, 2013 – June 14, 2013

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
June 20, 2013 – August 4, 2013

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
August 9, 2013 – September 22, 2013

J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, Los Angeles
October 2, 2013 – December 2, 2013

“For the first time in the history of the United States, we have the opportunity to view an object that is heralded as one of the most important declarations of human rights,” said Akbar Lari, PAAIA Board Member and one of the sponsors of the tour in New York City. “The Cylinder allows the people of all nationalities and ages to appreciate the wisdom and quest for peace that was so highly valued by one of Iran’s most well-known and beloved rulers.”

Click here to read the British Museum’s press release about ‘The Cyrus Cylinder in Ancient Persia.’

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