In 1879 a 9” long clay cylinder was discovered in ancient Babylon. Dating to 539 BC, it records Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon and his decree to let captives return to their lands and restore their temples. It reads:
From [Shuanna] I sent back to their places to the city of Ashur and Susa, Akkad, the land of Eshnunna, the city of Zamban, the city of Meturnu, Der, as far as the border of the land of Guti – the sanctuaries across the river Tigris – whose shrines had earlier become dilapidated, the gods who lived therein, and made permanent sanctuaries for them. I collected together all of their people and returned them to their settlements, and the gods of the land of Sumer and Akkad which Nabonidus – to the fury of the lord of the gods – had brought into Shuanna, at the command of Marduk, the great lord, I returned them unharmed to their cells, in the sanctuaries that make them happy. (lines 30b-34a)
- While it does not mention the return of the Jewish captives, it confirms that the policy described in the Bible of allowing captives to return to and rebuild their lands is historically accurate.
The Cyrus cylinder is located in The British Museum.