The Cyrus Cylinder has been called “the first declaration of human rights.” It is a barrel-shaped baked clay cylinder, and despite popular belief it’s not a big object: It’s about 23cm long and 10cm wide / 9 x 4 inches.

This clay cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform – a form of wedge-shaped writing – about Cyrus, king of Persia (559-530 BC) and his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, capturing Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king. The cylinder was discovered more than 130 years ago in the ruins of Babylon in Iraq. It was excavated in several fragments. The cylinder was glued together straight away, and was read by Theophilus Pinches and Henry Rawlinson at the British Museum.