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Discovery of fragment belonging to British Museum's Cyrus cylinder further defers loan to Iran

This development has done little to alleviate lingering tensions between Iran and Britain

The British Museum’s loan to Iraq of the Cyrus Cylinder—regarded by modern scholars as the world’s first declaration of human rights—has been further delayed because of a major discovery in London. Part of its text has been found on two tablet fragments. The first was identified last month by Wilfred Lambert, a retired Birmingham University professor, who was going through some of the 130,000 cuneiform tablets at the museum.

Irving Finkel, curator in the BM’s Middle East department, then found a second fragment that had once been part of the same tablet. One of them clarifies a passage that could not be properly read on the Cyrus Cylinder and the other supplies part of the missing text (since a section of the cylinder was broken off before its discovery).

The BM’s Middle East keeper, John Curtis, describes the find as “very significant”, since the text was not simply used in a cylindrical form in which it would have been hidden in the foundations of a building. Instead, it was a proclamation distributed in tablet form throughout Cyrus’ empire.

The BM was due to have lent the artefact to Iran on 16 January, but this was delayed by the discovery. Reports from Tehran state that this latest delay has angered the Iranian vice president and cultural heritage head, Hamid Baqaei, who is threatening to break off cultural ties with Britain.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'New discovery delays Cyrus loan to Iran, again '