Iranian NGOs request Cyrus Cylinder show extension
January 2, 2011
TEHRAN -- A number of Iranian cultural NGOs have asked that the showcase of the Cyrus Cylinder be extended for about three months at the National Museum of Iran (NMI).The artifact was loaned by the British Museum on September 10, 2010 to the National Museum of Iran for a four-month show that ends on January 10.
The NGOs have sent a letter to the Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO), asking the organization to try its best to persuade the British Museum to extend the showcase, the Persian service of the Mehr News Agency reported on Friday.
The Achaemenids’ Cultural Society, the Ilam Study Center, the Mehregan Cultural Society, the Research Center for Iranian Culture and Civilization and several other organization and institutes are among the NGOs, which have signed the letter.
“As enthusiasts of Iranian cultural heritage, we ask the CHTHO director to do his best to see that the artifact remains on display at the museum until the end of the Noruz holidays,” they said in the letter.
People have more time during the holidays (March 21 to April 2) to enjoy visiting the artifact, they added.
Verbal negotiations with British Museum officials about extending the exhibit have been initiated, NMI curator Azadeh Ardakani told the Persian service of IRNA last week.
However, she said that the final decision about the issue would be made based on the views of the CHTHO director.
According to Ardakani, about 180,000 tickets have been sold for the showcase over the past 108 days. In addition, about 25,000 students and personnel from a number of governmental organizations have visited the artifact free of charge.
The cylinder was unveiled during a ceremony attended by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, British Museum director Neil MacGregor and several other British and Iranian officials on September 12, 2010.
“The Cyrus Cylinder is a precious item that sets a lofty criterion for judging the performance of rulers,” Ahmadinejad said in the ceremony.
Many Iranian officials have been outraged by the remarks he made in praise of the artifact and the personality of Cyrus the Great.
The clay cylinder was discovered in 1879 by the Assyro-British archaeologist Hormuz Rassam in the foundations of the Esagila, the main temple of Babylon. It was transferred to the British Museum in London, where it was reinforced in order to increase its resistance to erosion.
Considered the world’s first declaration of human rights, the Cyrus Cylinder is a document issued by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the form of a clay cylinder inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform script.
The cylinder was created following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, when Cyrus overthrew the Babylonian king Nabonidus and replaced him as ruler, ending the Neo-Babylonian Empire.
The text of the cylinder denounces Nabonidus as impious and portrays the victorious Cyrus as pleasing to the chief Babylonian god Marduk.
It goes on to describe how Cyrus had improved the lives of the citizens of Babylonia, repatriated displaced peoples and restored temples and cult sanctuaries.
The artifact was last displayed in Iran 40 years ago.
Photo: The Iranian photojournalists flock into the National Museum of Iran in Teheran to cover the opening ceremony of the Cyrus Cylinder showcase on September 12, 2010. (Mehr/Majid Asgaripur