The British Museum, London

The Cyrus cylinder. The cuneiform inscription on this 10-inch-long clay barrel tells of Cyrus the Great’s liberation of Babylon in 539 B.C.E., his benevolence to peoples previously subjugated under the Babylonians and his restoration of local religious practices. The inscription reads in part: “I returned to (these) sacred cult-cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the gods who live in them and established for them eternal sanctuaries. I (also) gathered all their inhabitants and returned them to their habitations.” It thus supports the account of Cyrus’s restoration of the Jerusalem Temple recorded in the biblical books of Ezra and Isaiah.