WASHINGTON, March 21 (KUNA) -- Dubbed "one of history's most important objects," the Cyrus Cylinder, on loan from the British Museum, is making its American debut in Washington at the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery alongside other pre-Islamic artifacts dating back 2,600 years ago.
The Cyrus Cylinder, heralded by historians as the world's first "bill of human rights", details Persian Conquer Cyrus the Great's conquest of ancient Babylon and decries religious tolerance and freedom for conquered subjects.
The nine-inch, barrel-shaped clay cylinder, covered in Babylonian cuneiform script, is on display as part of the touring "Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning " exhibit in Washington for seven weeks and then will travel to four other cities, New York, Houston, San Francisco, and finally Los Angeles.
Notably, the cylinder, originally excavated in 1879 by researchers from the British Museum, highlights the achievements of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire, to rule large parts of the Middle East for 200 years "Here is a document that in its time declared a new way of thinking," Julien Raby, Director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, told KUNA. Cyrus the Great has been heralded as the "paragon of princely statesmanship" by rulers from Alexander the Great to Thomas Jefferson, according to Raby.
"It was the first discussion of how you allow diversity of language, of belief in one society. How one society accommodates diversity," British Museum Director Neil MacGregor explained to KUNA.
"It's the first evidence of any ruler addressing what is the biggest question for all of us: How do we accommodate radically different ways of thinking about ourselves about our God." Raby also told KUNA that previous exhibitions on the ancient Middle East, including the most recent one on the Archeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia called Roads of Arabia, has been received positively by American audiences.
While the exhibition took roughly a year of collaboration, U.S. and British curators were challenged as to how to showcase the artistic, cultural and historical achievements of that era.
"How do we buttress it with other objects? Those objects really testify to something about the Achaedmenid Empire," noted Raby, "The difficulty is how to we pick up on some of the themes that need explicating which is the afterlife of the cylinder and also the afterlife of Cyrus. So we tried to do that through this juxtaposing different ways of looking at it, some favorable, some less favorable." Included in the exhibition are several carefully preserved agate seal by used by Darius the Great, gold and silver plaques and armbands and gold and silver bowls. These objects offer insight into the diverse traditions within the ancient empire, according to curators.
The exhibition will be in Washington until late April. It is organized by the British Museum, Sackler Gallery, and in partnership with the Iranian Heritage Foundation and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, in addition to private donations. (end) hy.gb KUNA 220011 Mar 13NNNN