An obelisk (/'ab@lIsk/; from Ancient Greek: obeliskos obeliskos, "spit, nail, pointed pillar") is a tall, four-sided, slender tapering structure with a pyramid-like form or pyramidion at the summit. The Ancient Egyptians named them tekhenu when they were first built. They are now known by many names, including obelisk, Egyptian aspis, and sphinx.
An obelisk can be made of any material that will not break under its own weight, such as granite, marble, or limestone. It may also be made of metal or ceramic. The word "obelisk" comes from Latin obelus, which means "little point". This refers to the small pyramidal top of the monument.
In classical antiquity, obelisks were often used as imperial markers or guard posts, especially in Egypt where dozens of these monuments remain. They were also used as religious icons: some Christians believe that Jesus appeared to three men while they were out hunting, each one wearing an obelisk on his head.
The word "sphinx" is derived from Greek Sphanginon, which means "to watch over", "to protect", or "to guide". In ancient Egypt, sphinxes were famous guardians who stood watch over temples and palaces.
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 used it to mark the graves of important people such as pharaohs. The word "obelisk" comes from Latin obelisks, which means "a little god". These small statues were placed on pedestals around the temple area.
Obelisks were originally covered in gold leaf and painted, but this process was eventually replaced by enameling. The colors used included red, white, and black. The most famous example today is the Washington Monument, which is made of D.C.-native graystone and stands 368 feet tall.
Early examples of obelisks are found in Egypt dating back to 3100 B.C. However, since they were made out of stone, they didn't last very long. All that remains today of many of these early obelisks is their base, which can be seen at sites all over Egypt.
In 1571, Antonio de Torres Villarroel built the first known European obelisk when he brought one from Africa to show off in his garden in Spain. It was destroyed by the French in 1791 during the Revolution.
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 in the country. Today, obelisks can be found in cities around the world including London, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.
Obelisks were originally carved from single blocks of stone; today, they are more commonly made from rows of thin stones held together with metal rods or cement. The height of an obelisk varies depending on the size of the base it is built on, but most are between 32 and 44 feet (10 and 13 meters) tall. The tallest standing obelisk in the world is in Giza, Egypt, where it stands at 66 feet (20 meters).
Egyptian rulers throughout history sought out remote places such as deserts or lakesides to build their obelisks. The Giza Pyramid Complex has some of the largest and most intricate Egyptian obelisks in existence. They were used as markers for distance and time during religious rituals performed by priests over many centuries. One example can be seen in Saint Peter's Square in Rome, where an Italian obelisk stands over 30 feet (9 m) high.
Obelisks are tapering monolithic pillars that were initially placed in pairs at the entryway of ancient Egyptian temples. 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 35 feet (11 m) high and made of black granite. The inscription on the obelisk celebrates Rameses' victories over other rulers.
Other pharaohs who erected obelisks include Ahmose I (1566–1550 B.C.), Amenhotep III (1390–1352 B.C.), Thutmose IV (1400–1372 B.C.), and Ramesses II (1308–1298 B.C.). The oldest known obelisk in Europe is also in Luxor and dates to around 1270 B.C. It was brought from Egypt by King Khufu (Cheops) of Egypt.
In addition to being used as a monument, obelisks were employed by Egyptian builders as tools to lift heavy objects, such as rocks and stones.
The Egyptian obelisk was cut from a single piece of stone, most often red granite from Aswan's quarries. The height of an Egyptian obelisk varied over time; those raised for royal monuments were usually larger than those used in temple architecture. The tallest known obelisk in Egypt is named "the Great Obelisk of Chephren" and stands 39 meters (128 feet) high.
Egyptian obelisks were used as a form of propaganda, offering prayers for the dead and blessing those who passed by. They also served as navigational aids for travelers on land or sea, and as benchmarks for farmers to know when to plant their crops. The Great Obelisk of Chephren is thought to have been constructed between 270 and 260 B.C. and was once located near the Temple of Karnak in Luxor. It was taken down in 1568 B.o.d. and shipped to Spain where it stood in the center of Madrid until 1648 when it was transported to its current location in the Parque del Oeste in Mexico City.
These stones were erected by Pharaohs as a symbol of their power and were often taller than they were wide.