Obelisks are tapering monolithic pillars that were initially placed in pairs at the entryway of ancient Egyptian temples. The Egyptian obelisk was cut from a single piece of stone, most often red granite from Aswan's quarries. The original height of the obelisk was about 33 feet (10 m), but over time erosion due to wind and water has reduced their height. There are records of Pharaohs Khufu, Cheops, and Menkaura having them raised up into new positions.
Egyptian obelisks were used as a form of imperial propaganda, demonstrating Egypt's power and influence throughout Africa and the Middle East. They were brought inside temples for protection while priests performed rituals to ensure prosperity for the kingdom and health for the king.
When pharaohs wanted to show off their power, they would order more-powerful obelisks to be carved from higher up on the mountain; these larger versions could then be set up outside their capital cities as symbols of authority. Some historians believe that the obelisks were used as markers for royal hunting grounds. Others suggest that they were used as benchmarks for measuring distances or carrying out surveys. However, there is no direct evidence supporting these theories.
In addition to being used by rulers to demonstrate their power, Egyptian obelisks were also used as astronomical instruments.
All four sides of the obelisk's shaft are adorned with hieroglyphs, which often comprise religious dedications, generally to the sun deity, and ruler commemorations. The word "obelisk" comes from the Greek oberon, which means "all-powerful."
The first known example of an obelisk was raised by Pharaoh Rameses II (1295–1224 B.C.) for use in the temple complex at Luxor. It is about 16 feet (5 m) high and made of dark green granite. The inscription on the obelisk reads: "Rameses son of Raafikah, beloved of Amun, has given it as a gift to build a house for his father."
After Rameses' death, his son Merenptah (1223–1205 B.C.) continued to expand the temple complexes at Luxor and Karnak. Merenptah's obelisk is made of white quartzite and bears an inscription praising the king and declaring him to be a divine entity. This monument is estimated to be around 30 feet (10 m) tall.
In 1571, Alessandro Antonyi commissioned an obelisk to be erected in his garden in Rome.
An obelisk is a stone rectangular pillar with a tapering top creating a pyramidion, set on a base, and constructed to honor the gods and memorialize an individual or event. The shape was invented by the ancient Egyptians sometime during the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-c. 2613 B.C.). They were used as monuments to honor the dead, as markers on roads leading into cities, and as weapons impaling targets during military exercises.
Why do we know so much about Egypt's history? In part because of all the interesting things that have happened in that country, including many important people having lives full of adventure! One example is the fact that most of what we know about the evolution of the Egyptian language comes from studying their hieroglyphs. These are pictures, written right over left, used instead of letters to talk about plants, animals, and objects around 5500 B.C.-3150 B.C. The hieroglyphics that have survived today were carved onto stone or wood, usually as part of the decoration on temples or other big buildings. Over time, these materials lost their paint but not always enough for scholars to understand everything they're reading. For this reason, some call hieroglyphics a "closed language" because even after thousands of years, it's difficult to learn how to read them. But despite this limitation, hieroglyphics has allowed scholars to piece together much information about daily life in Ancient Egypt.
The shape was invented by the ancient Egyptians during the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 B.C.) and became one of the main symbols of power and authority for various kings throughout history.
As part of their worship of the sun god Ra, early Egyptian rulers erected hundreds of obelisks as landmarks and in religious sanctuaries across the kingdom. Some were carved from single blocks of stone, while others were made up of several pieces that were then pieced together under great difficulty and at great cost. The most famous ancient obelisk is probably that of Pharaonic Egypt's ruler Thutmose III; built around 1450 B.C., it is now located in front of Cairo's Museum of Modern Art.
During the Middle Ages (approximately 500-1550 A.D.), obelisks were brought from Egypt to Europe by Italian merchants, where they were used as markers for land surveys and as decorations for royal courts. By the 16th century, however, most had been lost or destroyed. The only two surviving examples are located in Chicago and New York City.
In 1735, George II of England ordered the construction of the first British obelisk in London's Green Park.