Egyptian Obelisks

Obelisks are homages to the Sun God, Re. The Pharaohs were considered the sons of the sun, and they erected obelisks in honor of certain events. The pyramidion, the upper part of the obelisk in pyramid form, represented the rays of the sun, and were covered in gold, bronze, or metal alloys like electrum so that they would shine with the reflected sunlight. The four faces of the stone monolith were inscribed with glorifications and praises of the pharaoh, as well as indications of when and by whom the obelisk was carved. Obelisks were symbols of stability and permanence. One theory suggests that obeslisks symbolized the “djed” pillar, the Osirian symbol standing for the backbone of the physical world and the channel through which the divine spirit rises to rejoin its source. Obeslisks were typically constrcted in pairs from single pieces of red granite, one slightly taller than the other and each carved with precisely calculated dimensions and angles so that astronomers and priests could obtain precise calendrical and astonomical data from their shadows.éliopolis200501.JPG

Senusret I (1971-1926 BC), the second pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty, had two obelisks constructed to celebrate the 30th year of his reign. They were erected at the Temple of Ra-Atum in Heliopolis. Currently, only one of the 66 ft, 121 ton obelisks still stands, and is the oldest standing obelisk in Egypt.

Of the obelisks that Queen Hatshepsut (1473-1458BC), the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, constructed in her sixteenth year as pharaoh, one still stands at Karnak, Egypt. In Hatshepsut’s time, the obelisk, standing at approximately 97.5 feet high (sources iffer), was the tallest obelisk ever erected. It is constructed from the traditional red granite, and weighs about 323 tons. Its pair was toppled, and can be seen on the floor of the Temple of Karnak. According to inscription on the base, extracting the obelisks from the quarry took seven months. The other inscriptions describe the obelisks, emphasizing that each obelisk consisted of a single monolith of granite and that their gilding had taken enormous amounts of the finest gold, and honor Horus, her divine father Amun, her earthly father Thutmose I, and Ra.’s_Needle_(London)_inscriptions.jpg

A few years later, Thutmose III, the next pharoah, erected two obelisks at the Temple of Re in Heliopolis. They were thrown down by the Persians, then moved by Augustus to Alexandria one and a half millenniums later to decorate Cleopatra’s palace. One now stands on the Victoria Embankmet by the Thames in London, where it was moved in 1878. The other was moved to New York in 1881 and now stands in Central Park. The two obelisks are 69.5 feet high and are known as Cleopatra’s Needles.