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British Museum delays return of Cyrus Cylinder to Iran

Following various discussions in November [1] on the proposed loan of the Cyrus Cylinder, there are now going to be further delays to the loan, caused by the emergence of some new fragments of the cylinder that are being studied before anything else happens to it. Its unclear quite why these fragments have suddenly transpired now.

Bloomberg News [2]

British Museum Delays Sending Artifact to Iran After New Find
Last Updated: January 11, 2010 07:33 EST
By Farah Nayeri

Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) — The British Museum, which faces demands from Iran to lend an ancient artifact known as the Cyrus Cylinder, said it would delay sending the object there after making a discovery.

In agreement with the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization, the Cylinder will stay in London after similar inscriptions were found on two pieces of cuneiform tablet in the museum’s collections that may shed light on its “missing” or “obscure” passages, the museum said in an e-mailed news release.

“The new pieces are now being studied in the British Museum, and will be presented at a workshop with the involvement of colleagues from Iran,” the e-mail said. “Thereafter, it is intended that the two new pieces should be exhibited for the first time in Tehran, together with the Cylinder itself.”

The Cylinder, a 539-530 B.C. artifact dating back to the reign of Cyrus the Great, is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform, and has been described as the world’s earliest charter of human rights. Iran said in October that it would sever all ties with the British Museum unless a promise to send the Cylinder to the National Museum of Iran was honored.

The British Museum promised to loan the Cylinder after its 2005-6 exhibition, “Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia.” Yet the museum said in October that it was monitoring the Iranian political situation to make sure the loan was made in the best possible conditions.

That’s after Iranians took to the streets in the tens of thousands as of mid-June to protest the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, alleging that the poll was rigged.

Another set of protests broke out Dec. 21 after a dissident cleric died. In subsequent marches on Dec. 27, at least eight people were killed in clashes with the security forces.

To contact the writer on the story: Farah Nayeri in London

Press TV (Iran) [3]

‘New Cyrus cylinder pieces had been in Britain’
Sun, 10 Jan 2010 15:39:37 GMT

Iranian inscription expert Abdolmajid Arfaei says the newly-found pieces of the Cyrus cylinder had been housed in the British Museum.

“The pieces have most probably been housed in the museum and only recently recognized as parts of the Cyrus cylinder,” Arfaei told ISNA.

The British Museum recently announced that some new parts of the cylinder’s broken pieces have been found, which might be a clue to some other documents sent by Cyrus the Great to other regions.

“If there are any new pieces, then they can provide more information about the contents of the cylinder,” Arfaei said.

When asked about the theory of Cyrus making 10 cylinders and sending to different territories, Arfaei said, “If there existed more than one cylinder, at least one of them should have been found by now.”

Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) Hamid Baqaei announced on Saturday that the British Museum had invited an Iranian team to collaborate on studying the newly-found pieces.

The Cyrus the Great cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform with an account by Cyrus II, king of Persia (559-530 BC) and is considered the world’s first charter of human rights.

The ancient cylinder was scheduled to be given to Iran on loan in September 2009; however, the British Museum backed out of the agreement, citing Iran’s post-election unrest.

Tehran had earlier said that it would cease cooperation with the British Museum until the cylinder is loaned to the National Museum of Iran.

Iran has assured the British side about the safety of the priceless artifact.