Bloomberg: Iran will sever all ties with the British Museum unless an ancient artifact, the Cyrus Cylinder, is loaned to the National Museum of Iran, state-run Press TV reported on its Web site. By Farah Nayeri
Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) — Iran will sever all ties with the British Museum unless an ancient artifact, the Cyrus Cylinder, is loaned to the National Museum of Iran, state-run Press TV reported on its Web site.
The Cylinder, dated about 539-530 B.C. and inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform, has been described as the world’s earliest charter of human rights. The British Museum said after the Press TV report that it would keep its promise to lend the Cylinder, and was watching the Iranian political situation to make sure the loan was made in the best possible conditions.
“If the British Museum continues to make excuses for not loaning the artifact to the National Museum, we will, unfortunately, cease any cooperation with them, including archaeological expeditions and research,” Press TV quoted Hamid Baqaei, vice president in charge of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, as saying.
Baqaei said the London museum was using “the post-election political situation in Iran as its main excuse” not to loan, Press TV reported.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in June 12 elections, which his opponents said were rigged. Ahmadinejad has denied the allegations. Iranians have taken to the streets in the tens of thousands to protest the outcome.
“We certainly have committed to lending the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran, and it is fully our intention to do that,” said Hannah Boulton, head of press at the British Museum. “We are currently monitoring the political situation in Iran, but we hope that we’ll be able to honor that commitment as soon as possible.”
“As ever with any kind of loan, we’d want to be assured that the situation in the country was suitable,” she said.
The British Museum promised to loan the Cylinder after its 2005-6 exhibition, “Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia,” according to Boulton. It was made clear at the time, she said, that the Cylinder would not be loaned until after the “Babylon: Myth and Reality” exhibition, which ended March 15. The British Museum also wanted the Cylinder shown temporarily in its new Iranian gallery, she said.
Discussions on the timing of the loan started “only comparatively recently,” Boulton said.