Annual Meeting

Ancient object at Asian Art Museum speaks to modern law

Surely it was just coincidence, but an exhibit that should be of particular interest to lawyers opened Friday at the Asian Art Museum near San Francisco’s City Hall. The ABA convened its 2013 Annual Meeting in San Francisco on Thursday.

The exhibit centers on the Cyrus Cylinder, created from clay more than 2,500 years ago and inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform script. The text details the capture of Babylon after Cyrus the Great of Persia captured the famous city in 539 B.C.E. The text also contains his directions that enslaved laborers be returned to their homelands, along with objects looted from their places of worship. Among those groups may have been the Jewish people, who were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple.

Because of these statements, the Cyrus Cylinder is considered to be an important symbol of justice and tolerance. Some experts have described it as perhaps the first international bill of rights. The original resides in the British Museum in London, but there is a replica at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

The Asian Art Museum, one of the largest collections of its kind in the United States will be open at 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday during the ABA meeting; it is closed Monday. Members who finish their business early on Saturday can visit the museum before walking to the Davies Symphony Hall for the Opening Assembly, and then going to City Hall for the President’s Reception.

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