An obelisk (UK: //; US: //, from Ancient Greek: ὀβελίσκος obeliskos; diminutive of ὀβελός obelos, "spit, nail, pointed pillar") is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape or pyramidion at the top. These were originally called "tekhenu" by their builders, the Ancient Egyptians. The Greeks who saw them used the Greek 'obeliskos' to describe them, and this word passed into Latin and ultimately English. Ancient obelisks are monolithic; that is, they consist of a single stone. Apart from its shape, this is the major identifying characteristic of an obelisk, as it necessitates the technological ingenuity required to elevate into vertical position a massive rock weighing hundreds of tonnes.
Though this technological capacity exists today, most modern obelisks are made of several stones; some, like the Washington Monument, are buildings.
Obelisks were prominent in the architecture of the ancient Egyptians, who placed them in pairs at the entrance of temples. The word "obelisk" as used in English today is of Greek rather than Egyptian origin because Herodotus, the Greek traveller, was one of the first classical writers to describe the objects. A number of ancient Egyptian obelisks are known to have survived, plus the "Unfinished Obelisk" found partly hewn from its quarry at Aswan. These obelisks are now dispersed around the world, and fewer than half of them remain in Egypt.
The earliest temple obelisk still in its original position is the 68-foot (20.7 m) 120-metric-ton (130-short-ton) red granite Obelisk of Senusret I of the XIIth Dynasty at Al-Matariyyah in modern Heliopolis.
The obelisk symbolized the sun god Ra, and during the brief religious reformation of Akhenaten was said to be a petrified ray of the Aten, the sundisk. It was also thought that the god existed within the structure.
Benben was the mound that arose from the primordial waters Nu upon which the creator god Atum settled in the creation story of the Heliopolitan creation myth form of Ancient Egyptian religion. The Benben stone (also known as a pyramidion) is the top stone of the Egyptian pyramid. It is also related to the Obelisk.
It is hypothesized by New York University Egyptologist Patricia Blackwell Gary and Astronomy senior editor Richard Talcott that the shapes of the ancient Egyptian pyramid and obelisk were derived from natural phenomena associated with the sun (the sun-god Ra being the Egyptians' greatest deity). The pyramid and obelisk might have been inspired by previously overlooked astronomical phenomena connected with sunrise and sunset: the zodiacal light and sun pillars respectively.
The Ancient Romans were strongly influenced by the obelisk form, to the extent that there are now more than twice as many obelisks standing in Rome as remain in Egypt. All fell after the Roman period except for the Vatican obelisk and were re-erected in different locations.
The largest standing and tallest Egyptian obelisk is the Lateran Obelisk in the square at the west side of the Lateran Basilica in Rome at 105.6 feet (32.2 m) tall and a weight of 455 metric tons (502 short tons).
Not all the Egyptian obelisks in the Roman Empire were set up at Rome. Herod the Great imitated his Roman patrons and set up a red granite Egyptian obelisk in the hippodrome of his new city Caesarea in northern Judea. This one is about 40 feet (12 m) tall and weighs about 100 metric tons (110 short tons). It was discovered by archaeologists and has been re-erected at its former site.
In Constantinople, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius shipped an obelisk in AD 390 and had it set up in his hippodrome, where it has weathered Crusaders and Seljuks and stands in the Hippodrome square in modern Istanbul. This one stood 95 feet (29 m) tall and weighing 380 metric tons (420 short tons). Its lower half reputedly also once stood in Istanbul but is now lost. The Istanbul obelisk is 65 feet (20 m) tall.
Rome is the obelisk capital of the world. The most well-known is probably the 25 metres (82 ft), 331-metric-ton (365-short-ton) obelisk at Saint Peter's Square in Rome. The obelisk had stood since AD 37 on its site on the wall of the Circus of Nero, flanking St Peter's Basilica:
- "The elder Pliny in his Natural History refers to the obelisk's transportation from Egypt to Rome by order of the Emperor Gaius (Caligula) as an outstanding event. The barge that carried it had a huge mast of fir wood which four men's arms could not encircle. One hundred and twenty bushels of lentils were needed for ballast. Having fulfilled its purpose, the gigantic vessel was no longer wanted. Therefore, filled with stones and cement, it was sunk to form the foundations of the foremost quay of the new harbour at Ostia."
Re-erecting the obelisk had daunted even Michelangelo, but Sixtus V was determined to erect it in front of St Peter's, of which the nave was yet to be built. He had a full-sized wooden mock-up erected within months of his election. Domenico Fontana, the assistant of Giacomo Della Porta in the Basilica's construction, presented the Pope with a little model crane of wood and a heavy little obelisk of lead, which Sixtus himself was able to raise by turning a little winch with his finger. Fontana was given the project.
The obelisk, half-buried in the debris of the ages, was first excavated as it stood; then it took from 30 April to 17 May 1586 to move it on rollers to the Piazza: it required nearly 1000 men, 140 carthorses, and 47 cranes. The re-erection, scheduled for 14 September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, was watched by a large crowd. It was a famous feat of engineering, which made the reputation of Fontana, who detailed it in a book illustrated with copperplate etchings, Della Trasportatione dell'Obelisco Vaticano et delle Fabriche di Nostro Signore Papa Sisto V (1590), which itself set a new standard in communicating technical information and influenced subsequent architectural publications by its meticulous precision. Before being re-erected the obelisk was exorcised. It is said that Fontana had teams of relay horses to make his getaway if the enterprise failed. When Carlo Maderno came to build the Basilica's nave, he had to put the slightest kink in its axis, to line it precisely with the obelisk.
An obelisk stands in front of the church of Trinità dei Monti, at the head of the Spanish Steps. Another obelisk in Rome is sculpted as carried on the back of an elephant. Rome lost one of its obelisks, the Boboli obelisk which had decorated the temple of Isis, where it was uncovered in the 16th century. The Medici claimed it for the Villa Medici, but in 1790 they moved it to the Boboli Gardens attached to the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, and left a replica in its stead.
Several more Egyptian obelisks have been re-erected elsewhere. The best-known examples outside Rome are the pair of 21-metre (69 ft) 187-metric-ton (206-short-ton) Cleopatra's Needles in London (21 metres or 69 feet) and New York City (21 metres or 70 feet) and the 23-metre (75 ft) 227-metric-ton (250-short-ton) obelisk at the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
There are ancient Egyptian obelisks in the following locations:
- Egypt – 8
- Pharaoh Thutmosis I, Karnak Temple, Luxor
- Pharaoh Ramses II, Luxor Temple
- Pharaoh Hatshepsut, Karnak Temple, Luxor
- Pharaoh Senusret I, Al-Masalla area of Al-Matariyyah district in Heliopolis, Cairo
- Pharaoh Ramses III, Luxor Museum
- Pharaoh Ramses II, Gezira Island, Cairo, 20.4 m (67 ft)
- Pharaoh Ramses II, Cairo International Airport, 16.97 m (55.7 ft)
- Pharaoh Seti II, Karnak Temple, Luxor, 7 m (23 ft)
- France – 1
- Israel – 1
- Italy – 13 (includes the only one located in the Vatican City)
- Poland – 1
- Turkey – 1
- United Kingdom – 4
- United States – 1
Obelisk monuments are also known from the Assyrian civilization, where they were erected as public monuments that commemorated the achievements of the Assyrian king.
The British Museum possesses four Assyrian obelisks:
The White Obelisk of Ashurnasirpal I (named due to its colour), was discovered by Hormuzd Rassam in 1853 at Nineveh. The obelisk was erected by either Ashurnasirpal I (1050–1031 BC) or Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BC). The obelisk bears an inscription that refers to the king’s seizure of goods, people and herds, which he carried back to the city of Ashur. The reliefs of the Obelisk depict military campaigns, hunting, victory banquets and scenes of tribute bearing.
The Rassam Obelisk, named after its discoverer Hormuzd Rassam, was found on the citadel of Nimrud (ancient Kalhu). It was erected by Ashurnasirpal II, though only survives in fragments. The surviving parts of the reliefs depict scenes of tribute bearing to the king from Syria and the west.
The Black Obelisk was discovered by Sir Austen Henry Layard in 1846 on the citadel of Kalhu. The obelisk was erected by Shalmaneser III and the reliefs depict scenes of tribute bearing as well as the depiction of two subdued rulers, Jehu the Israelite and Sua the Gilzanean, giving gestures of submission to the king. The reliefs on the obelisk have accompanying epigraphs, but besides these the obelisk also possesses a longer inscription that records one of the latest versions of Shalmaneser III’s annals, covering the period from his accessional year to his 33rd regnal year.
The Broken Obelisk, that was also discovered by Rassam at Nineveh. Only the top of this monolith has been reconstructed in the British Museum. It is the oldest recorded obelisk from Assyria, dating to the 11th century BC.
A number of obelisks were carved in the ancient Axumite Kingdom of today northern Ethiopia. Together with (21-metre-high or 69-foot) King Ezana's Stele, the last erected one and the only unbroken, the most famous example of axumite obelisk is the so-called (24-metre-high or 79-footh) Obelisk of Axum. It was carved around the 4th century AD and, in the course of time, it collapsed and broke into three parts. In these conditions it was found by Italian soldiers in 1935, after the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, looted and taken to Rome in 1937, where it stood in the Piazza di Porta Capena. Italy agreed in a 1947 UN agreement to return the obelisk but did not affirm its agreement until 1997, after years of pressure and various controversial settlements. In 2003 the Italian government made the first steps toward its return, and in 2008 it was finally re-erected.
The largest known obelisk, the Great Stele at Axum, now fallen, at 33 metres (108 ft) high and 3 m (9.8 ft) by 2 m (6 ft 7 in) at the base (520 metric tons or 570 short tons) is one of the largest single pieces of stone ever worked in human history (the largest is either at Baalbek or the Ramesseum) and probably fell during erection or soon after, destroying a large part of the massive burial chamber underneath it. The obelisks, properly termed stelae or the native hawilt or hawilti as they do not end in a pyramid, were used to mark graves and underground burial chambers. The largest of the grave markers were for royal burial chambers and were decorated with multi-storey false windows and false doors, while nobility would have smaller less decorated ones. While there are only a few large ones standing, there are hundreds of smaller ones in "stelae fields".
The Romans commissioned obelisks in an ancient Egyptian style. Examples include:
- Arles, France —the Arles Obelisk, in Place de la République, a 4th-century obelisk of Roman origin
- Benevento, Italy — Roman obelisks
- Munich — obelisk of Titus Sextius Africanus, Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, Kunstareal, 1st century AD, 5.8 metres (19 ft)
- Rome — there are five ancient Roman obelisks in Rome. See List of obelisks in Rome.
- Walled Obelisk, Hippodrome of Constantinople. Built by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (905–959) and originally covered with gilded bronze plaques.
The prehistoric Tello Obelisk, found in 1919 at Chavín de Huantar in Peru, is a monolith stele with obelisk-like proportions. It was carved in a design of low relief with Chavín symbols, such as bands of teeth and animal heads. Long housed in the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú in Lima, it was relocated to the Museo Nacional de Chavín, which opened in July 2008. The obelisk was named for the archeologist Julio C. Tello, who discovered it and was considered the "father of Peruvian archeology." He was America's first indigenous archeologist.
(Listed in date order)
|Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins||Aix-en-Provence||France||1667|
|Market Square obelisk||Ripon||United Kingdom||24||80||1702||The first large scale obelisk in Britain.|
|Stillorgan Obelisk||Stillorgan, Dublin||Ireland||30||100||1727|
|St Luke Church||London||United Kingdom||circa 1727–33||spire by Nicholas Hawksmoor|
|Boyne Obelisk||near Drogheda, County Louth||Ireland||53||174||1736||To commemorate William of Orange's victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 (destroyed in 1923, only the base remains).|
|Conolly's Folly||Celbridge, County Kildare||Ireland||1740|
|Killiney Hill Obelisk||Killiney, County Dublin||Ireland||1742|
|Mamhead obelisk||Mamhead||United Kingdom||30||100||1742–1745||An aid to shipping.|
|General Wolfe's Obelisk||Stowe School, Buckinghamshire||United Kingdom||1754|
|Montreal Park Obelisk||Riverhead, Sevenoaks, Kent||United Kingdom||1761||Lord Jeffery Amherst's Obelisk.|
|Kagul Obelisk||Tsarskoe Selo||Russia||1772|
|Villa Medici||Rome||Italy||1790||A 19th-century copy of the Egyptian obelisk moved to the Boboli Gardens in Florence|
|Obelisk Fountain||James St., Dublin||Ireland||1790|
|Constable Obelisk||Gatchina Palace, Gatchina||Russia||1793|
|Moore-Vallotton Incident marker||Wexford||Ireland||1793|||
|Rumyantsev Obelisk||St Petersburg||Russia||1799|
|Obelisk at Slottsbacken||Stockholm||Sweden||1800|
|Nelson memorial||Springfield Park Liverpool, England||United Kingdom||circa 1805|
|St. Emmeram's Palace Obelisk||Regensburg, Bavaria||Germany||circa 1810|
|Constitution Obelisk||St. Augustine, Florida||United States||1814||In commemoration of the Spanish Constitution of 1812|
|Brightling Needle||Brightling, East Sussex||United Kingdom||20||65||circa 1815|||
|Patriots' Grave, Old Burying Ground||Arlington, Massachusetts||United States||1818|
|George IV Monument||Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin||Ireland||1823|
|Blantyre Monument||Erskine, Renfrewshire||United Kingdom||24||80||circa 1825|||
|Captain Cook's Monument||Easby Moor, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire||United Kingdom||15.5||51||1827|||
|Groton Monument||Fort Griswold, Groton, Connecticut||United States||41||135||1830|||
|Bunker Hill Monument||Charlestown, Massachusetts||United States||67||221||1827-43|||
|Spencer Monument||Blata l-Bajda||Malta||1831
|Thomas Jefferson Obelisk, Monticello||Charlottesville, Virginia||United States||1833||Erected by his family, Jefferson had willed that only three achievements be sketched onto it: Author of the Declaration of Independence, author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia.|
|Obelisk of Lions, Copou Park||Iași||Romania||13.5||44||1834|||
|Villa Torlonia||Rome||Italy||1842||Two obelisks|
|Reggio Emilia obelisk||Reggio Emilia, Emilia-Romagna||Italy||1842||Commemorates marriage of Francis V, Duke of Modena to princess Adelgunde of Bavaria|
|Rutherford's Monument||Anwoth, Scotland||United Kingdom||1842||A memorial to Samuel Rutherford|
|Political Martyrs' Monument||Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland||United Kingdom||27||90||1844|||
|Lansdowne Monument||Wiltshire, England||United Kingdom||38||125||1845||Erected by the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne to commemorate Sir William Petty.|
|The Obelisk||Newcastle, New South Wales||Australia||1850|
|Wellington Monument||Wellington, Somerset||United Kingdom||53||175||1854|||
|Stoodley Pike Monument||Todmorden, West Yorkshire||United Kingdom||37||121||1856|||
|Hyde Park Obelisk||Sydney, New South Wales||Australia||22||72||1857|||
|Herndon Monument||Annapolis, Maryland||United States||6.4||21||1860||Erected by the US Naval Academy to commemorate the loss of William Lewis Herndon.|
|Obelisk of Fontenoy||Fontenoy, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté||France||1860|
|Wellington Monument||Phoenix Park, Dublin||Ireland||62||203||1861||The tallest in Europe.|
|Prince of Wales' Obelisk||Port Elizabeth||South Africa||Intended for one George Kemp but erected to commemorate the marriage of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and Alexandra of Denmark in 1861. Originally on Market Square, now in front of the Bayworld Museum Complex.|
|Lincoln Tomb||Springfield, Illinois||United States||36||117||1865|||
|Nicholson's Obelisk||Margalla Hills, Rawalpindi–Islamabad||Pakistan||12||40||1868|||
|Captain Cook Obelisk||Kurnell, New South Wales||Australia||1870|||
|Dauphin County Veteran's Memorial Obelisk||Harrisburg, Pennsylvania||United States||34||110||1876|||
|Washington Monument||Washington DC||United States||169||555||1884|||
|Oriskany Battlefield monument||Rome, New York||United States||1884|||
|Monument to the Restorers||Restauradores Square, Lisbon||Portugal||1886||Erected to celebrate the victory in the Portuguese Restoration War (1640–1668).|
|Bennington Battle Monument||Bennington, Vermont||United States||92 or 93||301 or 306||1889|||
|Monolith "The Obelisk"||Villalar de los Comuneros, Castile and León||Spain||1889|
|Dalhousie Obelisk||Raffles Place, Central Area||Singapore||1891|||
|The Obelisk, Penn State University||University Park, Pennsylvania||United States||1896|
|Confederate War Memorial||Dallas, Texas||United States||1896|||
|William Dudley Chipley Memorial||Plaza Ferdinand VII, Pensacola, Florida||United States||1901|
|Sergeant Floyd Monument||Sioux City, Iowa||United States||1901|||
|Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial||South Royalton, Vermont||United States||15||50||1905||:118|
|McKinley Monument||Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York||United States||29||96||1907|||
|The Veterans' Monument||Elizabethton, Tennessee||United States||1904||Dedicated to American Civil War veterans from Carter County, Tennessee.|
|Finn's Point National Cemetery||Pennsville Township, New Jersey||United States||6||5||109||Erected by the U.S. government in 1910 to memorialize Confederate soldiers buried at the cemetery.|
|Coronation Memorial||Coronation Park, Delhi||India||To commemorate the founding of New Delhi in 1911 followed by other obelisks around the Rashtrapati Bhavan|
|Victory Memorial||Fort Recovery, Ohio||United States||31||101||1913|||
|Rizal Monument||Luneta Park, Manila||Philippines||12.7||42||1913||built to commemorate the executed Filipino nationalist, José Rizal.|
|National Women's Monument||Bloemfontein||South Africa||1913|||
|Ozark Trail||Various locations including Stroud, Oklahoma, Farwell, Dimmitt, Wellington, and Tulia, Texas||United States||1913||Formerly a series of 21 obelisks|
|PAX Memorial||Walmer, Port Elizabeth||South Africa||6||20||1919||A World War I memorial to local fallen soldiers.|
|Flagler Monument||Flagler Monument Island, Miami Beach, Florida||United States||34||110||1920|||
|Southport War Memorial||London Square, Southport, Lancashire, England||United Kingdom||20.6||67.5||1923|
|Veterans Memorial Plaza||Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, Indianapolis, Indiana||United States||30||100||1923|||
|Jefferson Davis Monument||Fairview, Kentucky||United States||107||351||1924|
|Boer War Monument||King's Domain, Melbourne, Victoria||Australia||23||75||1924|||
|Hobart Cenotaph||Queens Domain, Hobart, Tasmania||Australia||1925||A World War I memorial|
|The Big Red Apple||Cornelia, Georgia||United States||2.4||8||1925||A short square obelisk with the world's largest apple on top stands|
|Foshay Tower||Minneapolis, Minnesota||United States||1929||Modelled after the Washington Monument.a|
|Prague Castle Obelisk
(or Monolith from Mrákotín)
|Prague Castle, Prague||Czech Republic||15.42||50.6||1930|
|Obelisk of Montevideo
(or Obelisco a los Constituyentes de 1830)
|Parque Batlle, Montevideo||Uruguay||40||130||1930|||
|High Point Monument||High Point, Montague, New Jersey||United States||67||220||1930||Located on top of New Jersey's highest point, 550 m (1,803 ft) above sea level.|
|Foro Italico||Lungotevere Maresciallo Diaz, Rome||Italy||1932||Erected to honour Benito Mussolini.|
|Paterson Monument||Windmill Point, George Town , Tasmania||Australia||1935||Erected to commemorate the 1804 landing of William Paterson (explorer). |
|Obelisk of Buenos Aires||San Nicolás, Buenos Aires||Argentina||71.5||235||1936|
|Trujillo Obelisk||Santo Domingo||Dominican Republic||137||42||1937|
|San Jacinto Monument||La Porte, Texas||United States||567.31||172.92||1939||[note 1]|
|Trylon and Perisphere||1939 New York World's Fair, Flushing, New York||United States||700||210||1939||Not a true obelisk, but an art deco variant.|
|Maungakiekie Obelisk||One Tree Hill, Auckland||New Zealand||1940|||
|Victory Monument||Bangkok||Thailand||1941||To commemorate the Thai victory in the Franco-Thai War, a brief conflict waged against the French colonial authorities in Indo-China, which resulted in Thailand annexing some territories in western Cambodia and northern and southern Laos. These were among the territories which the Kingdom of Siam had been forced to cede to France in 1893 and 1904, and patriotic Thais considered them rightfully to belong to Thailand.|
|Plaza Francia Obelisk||Altamira, Caracas||Venezuela||1944|
|Banská Bystrica Obelisk||Banská Bystrica||Slovakia||1945||Commemorates the soldiers of the Red Army and those of the Romanian Army who fell while liberating the town.|
|Cenotaph on Leinster Lawn||Leinster House, Dublin||Ireland||18.28||60.0||1950||Erected to commemorate the memories of Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins and Kevin O'Higgins; and replaced an earlier temporary cenotaph, erected in 1923.|
|Lucas Gusher Obelisk||Beaumont, Texas||United States||1951||Recognizes the 50th anniversary of the birth of the liquid fuel age as the Lucas Gusher came in at Spindletop on January 10, 1901.|
|Israel War of Independence Memorial||Safed||Israel|
|Obelisk of São Paulo||São Paulo||Brazil||72||236||1954|||
|Monument to the abolition of slavery
(Monumento a la abolición de la esclavitud)
|Abolition Park, Ponce||Puerto Rico||30||100||1956|||
|Obelisk of La Paz||La Paz||Bolivia|
|Demidovsky Pillar||Tsentralny City District, Barnaul, Altai Krai||Russia||14||46|
(Poklonnaya Hill Obelisk)
|Poklonnaya Hill, Moscow||Russia||141.8||465|||
|Bayonet-Obelisk of the War Memorial||Brest Fortress, Brest||Belarus||100||330||1971|||
|Trinity Nuclear Test Site Obelisk||Jornada del Muerto, Socorro, New Mexico||United States||3.7||12||The location of the first atomic bomb explosion.|
|Cairn to mark the Geographic Centre of North America||Rugby, North Dakota||United States||4.6||15||1971||The structure is more like a cairn sited near the geographical center of North America (Mexico, USA and Canada). The location of the geographical center is approximately 15 miles (24 km) for the location of the cairn.|
|Pirulito da Praça Sete||Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais||Brazil|
|Oregon Trail||Boise, Idaho||United States||21 obelisks that mark the trail.|
|Islamic Summit Minar||Lahore, Punjab||Pakistan||155||47||1974||An obelisk-shape structure built to commemorate the Organisation of Islamic Conference.|
|Luxor Hotel||Las Vegas, Nevada||United States||The obelisk stands in front of the hotel, a pyramid-shaped hotel along The Strip|
|Endicott, Triple Cities, New York||United States||1975||An obelisk stands in front of radio talk show host Clint Ferro's boyhood home|
|Monumen Nasional||Merdeka Square, Jakarta||Indonesia||1975||Symbolizing the fight for the independence of Indonesia|
|Juche Tower||Pyongyang||North Korea||170||560||1982|
|1948 Arab-Israeli War Memorial||Ad Halom, Ashdod||Israel||Memorial to Egypt's fallen soldiers|
|Avis Obelisk||Avis Farms Office Park, Pittsfield Township, Michigan||United States||1998|
|Bahá'í House of Worship||Bahá'í World Centre buildings, Mount Carmel, Haifa||Israel||1971||Marking the site of the future Bahá'í House of Worship.|
|Independence Monument Obelisk||Maha Bandula Park, Yangon||Myanmar|||
- ^a Unsure if this is actually an obelisk, rather than an antenna or spire
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
|Capas National Shrine||Tarlac province||Philippines||70||230||2003|||
|Kolonna Eterna||San Gwann||Malta||6||2003||Egyptian obelisk by Paul Vella Critien|
|Colonna Mediterranea||Luqa||Malta||3.0||10||2006||Abstract art by Paul Vella Critien|
|Plaza Salcedo Obelisk||Vigan, Ilocos Sur||Philippines|
|Obelisco Novecento||Rome||Italy||2004||Sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro|
|Cyclisk||Santa Rosa, California||United States||20||65||Made of 350 bicycles|
|Särkynyt lyhty||Tornio, Lapland||Finland||9||30||Made of stainless steel|
In late summer 1999, Roger Hopkins and Mark Lehner teamed up with a NOVA (TV series) crew to erect a 25-ton obelisk. This was the third attempt to erect a 25-ton obelisk; the first two, in 1994 and 1999, ended in failure. There were also two successful attempts to raise a two-ton obelisk and a nine-ton obelisk. Finally in August–September 1999, after learning from their experiences, they were able to erect one successfully.
First Hopkins and Rais Abdel Aleem organized an experiment to tow a block of stone weighing about 25 tons. They prepared a path by embedding wooden rails into the ground and placing a sledge on them bearing a megalith weighing about 25 tons. Initially they used more than 100 people to try to tow it but were unable to budge it. Finally, with well over 130 people pulling at once and an additional dozen using levers to prod the sledge forward, they moved it. Over the course of a day, the workers towed it 10 to 20 feet. Despite problems with broken ropes, they proved the monument could be moved this way. Additional experiments were done in Egypt and other locations to tow megalithic stone with ancient technologies, some of which are listed here.
One experiment was to transport a small obelisk on a barge in the Nile River. The barge was built based on ancient Egyptian designs. It had to be very wide to handle the obelisk, with a 2 to 1 ratio length to width, and it was at least twice as long as the obelisk. The obelisk was about 3.0 metres (10 ft) long and no more than 5 metric tons (5.5 short tons). A barge big enough to transport the largest Egyptian obelisks with this ratio would have had to be close to 61-metre-long (200 ft) and 30-metre-wide (100 ft). The workers used ropes that were wrapped around a guide that enabled them to pull away from the river while they were towing it onto the barge. The barge was successfully launched into the Nile.
The final and successful erection event was organized by Rick Brown, Hopkins, Lehner and Gregg Mullen in a Massachusetts quarry. The preparation work was done with modern technology, but experiments have proven that with enough time and people, it could have been done with ancient technology. To begin, the obelisk was lying on a gravel and stone ramp. A pit in the middle was filled with dry sand. Previous experiments showed that wet sand would not flow as well. The ramp was secured by stone walls. Men raised the obelisk by slowly removing the sand while three crews of men pulled on ropes to control its descent into the pit. The back wall was designed to guide the obelisk into its proper place. The obelisk had to catch a turning groove which would prevent it from sliding. They used brake ropes to prevent it from going too far. Such turning grooves had been found on the ancient pedestals. Gravity did most of the work until the final 15° had to be completed by pulling the obelisk forward. They used brake ropes again to make sure it did not fall forward. On 12 September they completed the project.
This experiment has been used to explain how the obelisks may have been erected in Luxor and other locations. It seems to have been supported by a 3,000-year-old papyrus scroll in which one scribe taunts another to erect a monument for "thy lord". The scroll reads "Empty the space that has been filled with sand beneath the monument of thy Lord." To erect the obelisks at Luxor with this method would have involved using over a million cubic meters of stone, mud brick and sand for both the ramp and the platform used to lower the obelisk. The largest obelisk successfully erected in ancient times weighed 455 metric tons (502 short tons). A 520-metric-ton (570-short-ton) stele was found in Axum, but researchers believe it was broken while attempting to erect it.
- ὀβελίσκος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
- Harper, Douglas. "obelisk". Online Etymology Dictionary.
- οβελός in Liddell and Scott.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Obelisks.|
- Obelisk of the World (Shoji Okamoto)
- History of the Egyptian obelisks
- Obelisks in Rome (Andrea Pollett)
- Obelisks of Rome (series of articles in Platner's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome)
- History of the obelisk of Arles (in French)
- Octavo Edition of Domenico Fontana's book depicting how he erected the Vatican obelisk in 1586.
- National Geographic: "Researchers Lift Obelisk With Kite to Test Theory on Ancient Pyramids"
- Obelisk of Psametik II from Heliopolis, removed and reerected by Augustus in the northern Campus Martius, Rome