Iran severs ties with British Museum over the Cyrus Cylinder feud
The Cyrus Cylinder has a symbolism in Persian history, and the fact that the British Museum refuses to lend it to Iran for an exhibition there has caused a diplomatic spat. There is an irony in this. The Cyrus the Great cylinder is a document issued by the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great in the form of a clay cylinder inscribed in script. The cylinder was discovered in 1879 by archaeologist Hormund Rassam in the foundations of the main temple of Babylon. It is kept in the British Museum.
The irony resides in the fact that the cylinder “reflects a long tradition in Mesopotamia where, from as early as the third millennium BC, rulers began their reigns with declarations of reforms. It is a symbol of a reformist approach to governance. The National Museum of Iran in Tehran asked for a loan of the Cyrus Cylinder to temporarily display for a special exhibition, The Cylinder loan got caught up in the current ethos of sanctions towards Iran from the West. This has outraged the Iranian Museum administrators who see history above modern issues, and in their own symbolic action they immediately cut ties in an attempt to force the British Museum to change its minds.
Iran has cut links with the British Museum over its failure to lend the Islamic Republic an ancient Persian treasure, Iranian media reported on Saturday, in the latest sign of worsening relations between the two countries.
Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization said in October it had set a two-month deadline for the British Museum to allow the public display in Iran of the so-called Cyrus Cylinder, linked to the Persian ruler’s 6th century BC conquest of Babylon.
The museum, which houses a vast collection of world art and artifacts, said in September that plans to hand over the 2,500-year-old clay cylinder had been delayed due to unspecified “practicalities.”
Hamid Baqaie, head of the state Cultural Heritage Organization, said the museum had failed to meet the deadline, ISNA news agency reported. He said it had offered to deliver the cylinder by July instead but that this was not acceptable.
“The Cultural Heritage Organization has cut all its relations and cooperation with the British Museum,” he said, adding the move concerned archeological, exhibition and research cooperation.