Art opening: The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Cyrus Cylinder — one of the most famous objects to have survived from the ancient world — comes to the MFAH on a limited U.S. tour. A touchstone of civilization, the Cyrus Cylinder is truly an object of world heritage, produced for a Persian king and seen and studied for more than 130 years in the British Museum. Valued throughout the world, the Cyrus Cylinder is such a symbol of tolerance and respect for different peoples and different faiths that a copy is on display at the United Nations in New York.

The Cyrus Cylinder was inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform — the earliest form of writing — on the orders of the Persian King Cyrus the Great. It is often referred to as the first bill of human rights because it appears to encourage freedom of worship and to allow deported people to return to their homelands. It was first found in Babylon (now Iraq) in 1879 during a British Museum excavation, and it has been on display at the British Museum ever since.

The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning also features 16 works of art that are testimony to the innovations initiated by Persian rule in the Ancient Near East. A gold plaque from the Oxus Treasure with the representation of a priest shows the spread of the Zoroastrian religion at that time. Persian kings introduced a new writing system, Old Persian cuneiform, as seen on part of a column base from Hamadan and on the renowned seal of Darius. The kings also developed new forms of luxury goods, including beautifully decorated gold and silver bowls and sumptuous gold bracelets featuring fantastic animal shapes, some from the Oxus Treasure.

On view through June 14.



Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1001 Bissonnet St.
Houston, TX 77005


Free with museum admission.
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