Cyrus Cylinder, ‘The First Bill Of Rights,’ Tours US

The famous Cyrus Cylinder, a baked clay tablet from the 6th century B.C. that’s often called the “first bill of rights,” has made its U.S. debut at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The Cyrus Cylinder was deposited in the foundations of a building in Babylon during the reign of the Persian king Cyrus the Great. It commemorates his conquest of Babylon and announces religious freedom for the people displaced by the Babylonian king Nabonidus. Among them were the Jews, who had been in captivity in Babylon. Many Jews soon returned to Jerusalem and built the Second Temple.

While Cyrus’ announcement and inscription isn’t unique for that time, the cylinder became instantly famous upon its discovery in 1879 because of its connection to events that are mentioned in the Bible. Ever since, Cyrus has been considered the model of a just king ruling over a diverse empire.

It’s the centerpiece of a new exhibition titled “The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning,” which examines the religious, cultural and linguistic traditions of the vast and powerful Achaemenid Empire (539–331 B.C.) founded by Cyrus the Great.

The exhibition runs until April 28. After the Smithsonian, the Cyrus Cylinder will tour the U.S., stopping at Houston, New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles. You can see the full details of the schedule here.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Creation Museum: Where People and Dinosaurs Meet

First of all, I love Kentucky. I really do. I was born there. I have family still there, but here’s a museum that I’m just not too sure about and it happens to be near where my relatives live. Already there’s controversy and I almost hesitate to bring it up, but here it goes, The Creation Museum opens tomorrow just south of Cincinnati. The Web site’s heading says, “Prepare to Believe.” This is an opposite look at natural history than the one depicted in my La Brea Tar Pits post.

The museum is not just a rinky-dink operation either. This is a mega-bucks attraction, as in $27 million, to highlight how the Bible is word for word true. For example, according to the word for word translation of the Bible all animals were created on the 5th and 6th day, dinosaurs included. That means that humans and dinosaurs really did live at the same time. The Creation Museum shows just what that looked like. Just think what this means for Walt Disney Productions.

To help visitors prepare to believe and connect dots between then and now, Old Testament favorites like Noah’s Ark are depicted in life-like form. If you ever wondered how the animals got off the ark this might help you out. The museum also has all the bells and whistles of visitor interaction as part of the walk-through displays. The photo is of the main exhibit hall where a 40-foot tall aninimatronic sauropod dinosaur is grouped with several others.

In Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky scientists are busy with protests since the fear is that kids, like my 5-year old son who would be enamored with this place, might have their scientific lens destroyed. For the creators of the museum, one of them a former Universal Studios director, it seems to me, that is part of the point. One of the things I appreciate about this place is that the museum says upfront what it is. The main theme is “The Bible is True from Genesis to Revelation.” This isn’t a bait and switch operation. You may not believe what you see, but you won’t be surprised by it either.