Philanthropists help bring ancient artifact to Asian Art Museum in San Francisco | September 4, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Arts & Entertainment - September 4, 2013

Philanthropists help bring ancient artifact to Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

by Renee Batti

A small ancient artifact that some historians call "the first bill of human rights" is now on exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, with critical support by the Iranian American community and a prominent Atherton couple.

The Cyrus Cylinder, part of the British Museum's collection, will be on display along with 16 rare artworks from ancient Persia, now Iran, until Sept. 22.

The exhibit is sponsored by Atherton philanthropists Bita Daryabari and Dr. Reza Malek, who are married, and Tina and Hamid Moghadam, in collaboration with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans.

Only 9 inches in length, the clay cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform script on orders of Persian King Cyrus the Great, according to the museum. It dates to 539 BCE, and was unearthed in 1879 during a British Museum excavation in Babylon, which is now Iraq.

The inscription chronicles how Cyrus conquered Babylon, restored shrines dedicated to various gods, allowed freedom of religious practice, and allowed deported people to return to their homelands, according to a museum press release.

"The importance of this cylinder lies in the text inscribed on its surface," says Ms. Daryabari, a native of Iran and founder of the nonprofit Pars Equality Center in Menlo Park, which supports the Persian immigrant community.

"It's a message of peace, freedom of religion, and freeing slaves," she says. "Therefore, it is the earliest and oldest declaration of human rights, (originating) in an empire that at the time was the largest the world had ever seen."

Ms. Daryabari says she hopes that "every child and adult, all politicians" and all members of Congress view the cylinder as it tours the country. "The more people learn about Iran and its history and culture, the less there will be talk about sanctions, war and bombs," she says.

The exhibition, "The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning," includes other Persian art from the Achaemenid period (550-330 BCE), "providing a context for understanding the cylinder's cultural and historical significance," according to the museum.

From San Francisco, the exhibition will travel to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Southern California.

Go to to learn more about the exhibition.


There are no comments yet for this post

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Meet the winners!

The results are in. Check out The Almanac readers' favorite foods, services and fun stuff in the area.

View Winners