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Catching up with the Cyrus Cylinder

By A.J. Cave

Following in the footsteps of the Cyrus Cylinder trekking through five museums in the United States, we have reached the mid-point in Manhattan. So let's pause for a commercial break and see how far this iconic object has come, as we eagerly await its arrival on the West Coast.

The Cyrus Cylinder (see high resolution)

The Cyrus Cylinder museum tour has been organized by the British Museum in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Smithsonian Institution, with additional funding provided by various individuals and organizations.

The special exhibition opened at the Freer|Sackler, the Smithsonian's Museums of Asian Art, in Washington D.C. on 9 March 2013. Close to 150,000 people flocked to the museum to see the exhibit over the seven weeks.

Special museum exhibits traditionally put clusters of related objects on display to tell a story about a people and their times. In contrast, the Cyrus Cylinder tour is considered a single-object exhibit, focusing on one piece of history, and its financial success is likely to pave the way for other similar museum exhibits to capture the public interest and imagination.

The enormous success of this exhibit is also a testament to the tremendous public curiosity in the history of the ancient Near East and in the people and places mentioned in the biblical and classical sources, and the willingness to embrace the eastern roots of our common humanity.

While The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia exhibit is the same at each host museum, the museum curators have created unique programs to entertain and educate their patrons. Some of the museum talks have been video-taped and posted online for the greater good of the public at large.

  • Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: the Cyrus Cylinder: a New Beginning (9 March-28 April)
    • The Cyrus Cylinder: The Discovery and Creation of an Icon: an hour-long lecture by Dr. John Curtis from the British Museum, including an additional 14 minutes of Q&A can be found here.
    • Day-long Symposium: The Legacy of Cyrus the Great: Iran and Beyond (papers presented might be published at a later date)
  • Houston's Museum of Fine Arts: the Cyrus Cylinder: a New Beginning (3 May-14 June)
    • A 3-minute interview with Gary Tinterow, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, on network TV is posted here.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art: the Cyrus Cylinder: the Discovery and Creation of an Icon (20 June-4 August)
    • Here is the link to the exhibit on the museum's website.
    • A sneak peek at all the pieces on exhibit can be found here:
    • A 15-minute video provided by the British Museum includes a short demo on how to write the name of Cyrus (Kurash in Akkadian) by Dr. Irving Finkel.
    • The Cyrus Cylinder from Ancient Babylon and the Beginning of the Persian Empire: an hour-long lecture by Dr. John Curtis from the British Museum (very similar to the one at Freer|Sackler) is posted here.

For a list of the upcoming talks and events about Cyrus the Great and his cylinder at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (9 August-22 September), please check out here.

One of the planned activities at the Asian Art Museum is a Teacher Workshop on 10 August 2013.

Additional content is found on the official Cyrus Cylinder Tour website:

The official exhibition catalogue can be ordered from any of the museum shops (also from Amazon): The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning for the Middle East by John Curtis (British Museum Press, 2013)

A related book is: The Cyrus Cylinder: The King of Persia's Proclamation from Ancient Babylon by Irving Finkel (I. B. Tauris, 2013).

And the preview of my novel about Cyrus the Great, Cyrus 0.9: Highlander can be ordered from here.

I warmly thank all the organizers and sponsors of this ground-breaking exhibition and highly encourage all of you to do your part by supporting and visiting the Cyrus Cylinder tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, until 4 August), Asian Art Museum (9 August-22 September, San Francisco), or Getty Villa (2 October-2 December, Pacific Palisades).

When a world ends, words remain. And I am grateful for the words that have survived for thousands of years on a small clay cylinder to give us a glimpse of Cyrus the Great, the Anshanite warrior-king founder of the first greatest world empire in the written history.


The exhibition's full title is "The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning."
see high resolution

Related Articles:

Ancient Persian Ruler Influenced Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Democracy - The discovery of the Cyrus Cylinder was a hundred years in the future when Thomas Jefferson and other founders of the United States adopted the progressive ideas of the ancient Persian ruler Cyrus the Great. They knew of Cyrus through classical Greek writers and Biblical accounts. -Lea Terhune, IIP 03/17/13

Cyrus Cylinder: Ancient Persia Foreshadowed Modern Values - The Cyrus Cylinder has left its British Museum repository for its first U.S. tour, beginning at the Smithsonian Institution's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington. "The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia" showcases this 2,600-year-old archeological treasure amid other artifacts from the Achaemenid Empire (550-331 B.C.) founded by the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great. -Lea Terhune, IIP 03/13/13

The Cyrus Cylinder Tour Of The United States: Washington, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles -- March-December 2013 - The Cyrus Cylinder will be on display in an exhibition entitled "The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning." This touring exhibition is organised by the British Museum in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, and in collaboration with four other major museums. 02/23/13

Cyrus, Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zion - By all accounts. Cyrus was a magnanimous man and the archetype of a wise ruler. The policies that he introduced did indeed promote religious tolerance, and the right for communities to live according to their own laws and beliefs. What Cyrus promoted is a model to be emulated and not criticized. One must be grateful that Neil MacGregor delivered his TED talk, and is allowing the Cyrus Cylinder to tour the United States of America. -Abolala Soudavar 02/20/13

The Cyrus Cylinder: Its Significance for Today

- The Cyrus Cylinder has traveled to the United States for the first time, and it will tour five major metropolitan centers, starting March 9th at the Smithsonian Institution's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., traveling afterwards to Houston, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Despite its antiquity, the cylinder may still have a significant role to play on the international stage today. -Farhang Jahanpour 03/11/13

... Payvand News - 07/19/13 ... --

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