An Obelisk is a tall, four-sided, stone pillar with a pyramidion at its end.
Ancient Egyptians called obelisks “Tekhenu” which means “To pierce”, the word “Obelisk” itself was originated from the Greeks who saw them and used the Greek term “Obeliskos” that stands for “Spit, Pointed Pillar”, meanwhile Arabs call it “Messiah” that stands for a needle. Obelisks symbolize the sun god “Ra” and also are for commemorating an event, and honoring the gods.
History of Obelisks in Ancient Egypt
Obelisks were invented by the Ancient Egyptians, obelisks appeared in Ancient Egypt between the fourth and the fifth dynasty.
Obelisks were erected from stone, they were tall, they had a height range from ten feet to over 100 feet, which is from 3 meters to moreover 30 meters tall.
Obelisks are believed to represent the rays of light, their height and position had a direct solar relation, so they were placed in areas where the first ray of light and the last ray of light would touch their peaks to honor the sun god.
The oldest surviving obelisk from the twelfth dynasty is located in Heliopolis, Cairo. It is the oldest obelisk among all the obelisks located around the world. It has been standing for nearly 4000 years in its place, and its height is estimated to be 20.7 meters.
Why were obelisks built?
Ancient Egyptians thought great of obelisks therefore they built them, the obelisks represented the “Benben”. The Benben is named after a mound and was a divine stone at the temple of “Ra”, and also was where the first rays of the sun fell on.
The obelisks were built to honor the god of the sun, and to honor the great accomplishments of great kings and great queens like “Hatshepsut”. It is also thought that obelisks symbolize rebirth, pharos believed that obelisks could bring them back after their death by attracting the rays of the sun that could serve in their rebirth, so they built more obelisks.
How were obelisks built?
Obelisks were constructed from stone and granite, the reason for the usage of granite is that it is a stone with internal structure strength that can support its own weight. Diorite stone was used to cut stones, and smooth the obelisk so that they could add writing and documentation to it. Obelisks were often covered with gold, metal alloys, or bronze, so when the sunshine fell on those obelisks it could shine and glow.
How the raise of obelisks were made, is somehow unclear, but there are various assumptions about how obelisks were raised, from those assumptions is that there was an already made hole in the ground at the end of a ramp, the base of the obelisk was beneath a ramp, it was raised using ropes pulled by the workers up the ramp guiding the obelisk carefully, until the end of the obelisk reaches the end of the ramp to get into the hole in the ground, that was how the obelisks were raised and placed standing as we have seen them in our era now, such a process is really fascinating and marvelous.
Obelisks around the world
Obelisks built by the Ancient Egyptians are standing perfectly till now in different parts of the worlds, although about 30 obelisks were built by them and are well till now, yet only 8 obelisks are located in Egypt.
In France, there are “Paris obelisks of Ramses II”, which was previously located in front of Luxor temple in Egypt, these obelisks are equivalent to four ones, the weight of one of those obelisks is estimated to be about 250 tons.
In Italy the number of Ancient Egyptian obelisks there is estimated to be around 8 obelisks, their heights are estimated to be between the range of 6.34 meters to 36.5 meters, most of them are located in Rome’s capital of Italy. The popular obelisk that is located in Saint Peter’s square in the Vatican city in Italy, is also a 4,000 years old Egyptian obelisk.
In addition to obelisks located in France, and Italy, there are also obelisks that are located in London, New York, and Turkey, that is also from Egypt.
The obelisks located in Egypt are located in Karnak, Luxor, Fayoum, and Cairo. Heliopolis in Cairo has one of the earliest obelisks around the world as we have discussed before.
Fascinating facts about obelisks
The fact that obelisks are made from a single piece of stone, and about that they weigh 180 tons, with a base that is rectangular, the rectangular base has dimensions of between 2.36 meters by 2.33 meters and also has an average height of 21.2 meters high, is fascinating and overwhelming that such perfectly built monuments existed since the ancient ages till now.
How obelisks were shaped, how they were raised, the tools that were used to construct the obelisks, the time and the human power who collaborated in the creation of those masterpieces, every little thing about obelisks is really fascinating.
One of the interesting facts of obelisks is how it was transported from Egypt to other parts of the world, how that heavy monument that weighs in tons was professionally moved to stand perfectly fine without any faults, in another country in the world. Obelisks transportation was done by ships sailing through the Nile River, it is believed that workmen used a similar method to how they raise them. They used ropes to pull the created obelisk onto a ramp, to be pulled into the Nile river to the ship that is waiting for the obelisk to transport it to the target country. It is still and will always be fascinating how the process of raising obelisks to stand and the process of transportation to another country was done so perfectly.
Obelisks are such unique monuments, it will always be mind blowing and surprising that such marvelous monuments were constructed in the old ages, and are standing powerfully and well till now, in different areas of the world. From obelisks, to pyramids, to mummies, everything about the Ancient Egypt has a unique mysterious vibe, and everyday there is always news of great monuments being discovered here and there.
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