Museum loan to soothe tension with IranThe full statement from the British Museum is given here.
By Peter Aspden (Financial Times)
Published: September 10 2010 23:07 | Last updated: September 10 2010 23:07
In a rare act of diplomatic accord between the UK and Iran, the British Museum has sent the Cyrus Cylinder – one of its most culturally significant possessions – to Tehran where it will remain on loan and be displayed for the next four months.
The prized clay artefact, a document written by the Persian king Cyrus the Great, was flown to the Iranian capital on Thursday night and will go on display at the National Museum of Iran on Sunday.
The cylinder, written in Babylonian cuneiform after Cyrus’s conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, has been described as the first declaration of human rights. It records Cyrus’s restoration, after his conquest, of shrines dedicated to different gods, and his repatriation of deported peoples.
Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said the loan was especially important at a time of diplomatic tension between Iran and the west.
Personally, I don't think that loaning out precious pieces of humanity's heritage to totalitarian theocrats is a particularly good idea, but no one asked me. That said, the move may well backfire on the Mullahs, since it may be politically useful to the opposition in their calls for freedom.
For background on the Cyrus Cylinder go here and follow the links.
UPDATE (12 September): Todd Bolen comments on the loan at the Bible Places blog and Dorothy Lobel King comments at PhDiva. I share Dorothy's concerns about the cylinder coming back. She also reminds us that "Cyrus may have ruled over what is now Iran, but the cylinder was found in Iraq."