Obelisks are tapering monolithic pillars that were initially placed in pairs at the entryway to ancient Egyptian temples. The Egyptian obelisk was cut from a single block of stone, most often red granite from Aswan's quarries. The height of an obelisk varies considerably; some are as tall as 38 feet (11 m), while others do not reach more than 14 feet (4 m). All but one of Egypt's obelisks were originally found in northern Africa. The exception is the pyramid-shaped monument known as the Obelisk of Maxentius in Rome, which is actually a copy of an original found in Alexandria.
Egyptian obelisks were used as landmarks and as symbols of authority. They were often placed in prominent positions around ancient cities to alert people to the power of the pharaohs who erected them. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one of Egypt's ancient monuments still standing today. But even this masterpiece has been destroyed over time through human activity: An Egyptian priest named Antony de Portuignis removed some of the top stones from the pyramid after the French invasion in 1798.
In addition to being used for military purposes, Egyptian obelisks were also taken as spoils of war by the rulers of other countries who had themselves engraved with their names on the sides of the columns.
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-seeing."
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 dark green granite. The inscription on the obelisk reads: "Rameses son of Raafikah, beloved of Amun, has done this for the beauty of his kingdom."
In 1541 B.C., Pharaoh Ahmose I erected a second obelisk in the Temple of Karnak. The inscription on this obelisk records the victory of Pharaoh Ahmose over the king of Meroe during the Sixteenth Dynasty.
In 1669 B.C., Pharaoh Sety I erected a third obelisk for use in the Temple of Karnak. This one is 90 feet (27 m) high and made of red sandstone.
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 first used as markers on roads throughout Egypt. The Egyptian word for "obelisk" is osb el-asfawt, which means "a tall post".
The pharaohs of ancient Egypt made obelisks to commemorate their victories, celebrate their reigns, and honor the gods. Some were carved from one single block of red granite, but most were made from several different kinds of stone put together, often including quartz, marble, and alabaster. The stones were usually cut into the desired shape within the pharaoh's own court, after which they were taken to a location outside the city where the obelisk stood as a monument to the ruler's power and authority.
Inscriptions, pictures, and statues were used to decorate the sides of the monuments, and these can still be seen today. The best known example in Chicago is the Washington Monument, which was built as a tribute to our first president. It is also called the Great Obelisk because it is larger than many other obelisks found in Egypt.
The shape was invented by the ancient Egyptians sometime around the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 B.C.) and became popular during the New Kingdom (1539-1069 B.C.). It is estimated that there are only about 250 active obelisks in North America.
Obelisks were originally carved from single blocks of stone; however, since the 16th century, they have usually been made from metal (usually aluminum) instead. The original height of an obelisk might be as high as 38 feet, but most today are much shorter. The tallest known surviving obelisk in North America is at Chicago's Lincoln Park, which stands 33 feet tall.
In addition to being used as monuments, obelisks were also employed as tools for leveling land and for measuring distances. They were taken to sites where they were needed by horses or donkeys and then dragged or carried for great distances over rough terrain. Because of this arduous process, obelisks can be found all over the world, spread out over different locations. However, none of them are closer than 200 miles from Cairo, Egypt.
There are two types of obelisks: religious and ceremonial.
An obelisk (/'ab@lIsk/; from Ancient Greek: obeliskos obeliskos; diminutive of obelos obelos, "spit, nail, pointed pillar") is a tall, four-sided, slender tapering structure with a pyramidion at the summit. Ancient obelisks are monolithic, meaning they are made of a single stone. However, more commonly today an obelisk consists of multiple pieces of stone set in a horizontal base.
Shape is another word for form or design. So, an obelisk is a tapered spire with a point on top. It is like a needle or a pencil sharpened to a fine point. In mathematics and geometry, an obelisk is a three-dimensional figure that is isomorphic to a rectangle with non-square corners. The first known example of this figure was constructed by French mathematician Pierre de Fermat around 1642. He called it a pyramidal solid and noted that it could be inscribed into a sphere.
The word obelisk comes from the Arabic word ابن زلجة (ibn zalqiah), which means "son of the camel". The Egyptians used them to mark graves and as monuments to honor people such as themselves who had been famous or did something remarkable. They often included the name of the person being honored in large letters at the top of the obelisk.