An obelisk (/ˈɒbəlɪsk/; from Ancient Greek: ὀβελίσκος obeliskos;[1][2] diminutive of ὀβελός obelos, "spit, nail, pointed pillar"[3]) is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape or pyramidion at the top. These were originally called tekhenu by their builders, the Ancient Egyptians. The Greeks who saw them used the Greek term 'obeliskos' to describe them, and this word passed into Latin and ultimately English.[4] Ancient obelisks are monolithic; that is, they consist of a single stone. Most modern obelisks are made of several stones; some, like the Washington Monument, are buildings.

The term stele is generally used for other monumental, upright, inscribed and sculpted stones.

Louxor obelisk Paris dsc00780
One of the two Luxor obelisks, in the Place de la Concorde in Paris; a red granite monolithic column, 23 metres (75 feet) high, including the base, which weighs over 250 metric tons (280 short tons).

Ancient obelisks


Pylons and obelisk Luxor temple
Pylon of the Temple of Luxor with the remaining obelisk (of two) in front (the second is in the Place de la Concorde in Paris).
Obelisk of Pharaoh Senusret I, Al-Maalla area of Al-Matariyyah district in modern Heliopolis.

Obelisks played a vital role in their religion and were prominent in the architecture of the ancient Egyptians, who placed them in pairs at the entrance of the temples. The word "obelisk" as used in English today is of Greek rather than Egyptian origin because Herodotus, the Greek traveller, was one of the first classical writers to describe the objects. A number of ancient Egyptian obelisks are known to have survived, plus the "Unfinished Obelisk" found partly hewn from its quarry at Aswan. These obelisks are now dispersed around the world, and fewer than half of them remain in Egypt.

The earliest temple obelisk still in its original position is the 68-foot (20.7 m) 120-metric-ton (130-short-ton)[5] red granite Obelisk of Senusret I of the XIIth Dynasty at Al-Matariyyah in modern Heliopolis.[6]

The obelisk symbolized the sun god Ra, and during the religious reformation of Akhenaten it was said to have been a petrified ray of the Aten, the sundisk. It was also thought that the god existed within the structure.

Benben was the mound that arose from the primordial waters Nu upon which the creator god Atum settled in the creation story of the Heliopolitan creation myth form of Ancient Egyptian religion. The Benben stone (also known as a pyramidion) is the top stone of the Egyptian pyramid. It is also related to the Obelisk.

It is hypothesized by New York University Egyptologist Patricia Blackwell Gary and Astronomy senior editor Richard Talcott that the shapes of the ancient Egyptian pyramid and obelisk were derived from natural phenomena associated with the sun (the sun-god Ra being the Egyptians' greatest deity).[7] The pyramid and obelisk's significance have been previously overlooked, especially the astronomical phenomena connected with sunrise and sunset: the zodiacal light and sun pillars respectively.

Around 30 B.C., after Cleopatra "the last Pharaoh" committed suicide, Rome took control of Egypt. The Ancient Romans were awestruck by the obelisks, and looted the complex to the extent that they destroyed walls at the Temple of Karnak to haul out obelisks. There are now more than twice as many obelisks that were seized and shipped out by Rome as remain in Egypt. A majority were dismantled during the Roman period over 1, 700 years ago and the obelisk were sent in different locations.

The largest standing and tallest Egyptian obelisk is the Lateran Obelisk in the square at the west side of the Lateran Basilica in Rome at 105.6 feet (32.2 m) tall and a weight of 455 metric tons (502 short tons).[8]

Not all the Egyptian obelisks in the Roman Empire were set up at Rome. Herod the Great imitated his Roman patrons and set up a red granite Egyptian obelisk in the hippodrome of his new city Caesarea in northern Judea. This one is about 40 feet (12 m) tall and weighs about 100 metric tons (110 short tons).[9] It was discovered by archaeologists and has been re-erected at its former site.

In 335 A.D., Constantine I ordered the removal of two of Karnak's obelisks. One was sent to Constantinople, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius took the obelisk and had it set up in a hippodrome, where it has weathered Crusaders and Seljuks and stands in the Hippodrome square which is now called Istanbul. This one stood 95 feet (29 m) tall and weighing 380 metric tons (420 short tons). Its lower half reputedly also once stood in Istanbul but is now lost. The Istanbul obelisk is 65 feet (20 m) tall.[10]

The other was transported to Rome and is probably the most well-known 25 metres (82 ft), 331-metric-ton (365-short-ton) obelisk at Saint Peter's Square in the world.[8] The obelisk had stood since AD 37 on its site and on the wall of the Circus of Nero, flanking St Peter's Basilica:

"The elder Pliny in his Natural History refers to the obelisk's transportation from Egypt to Rome by order of the Emperor Gaius (Caligula) as an outstanding event. The barge that carried it had a huge mast of fir wood which four men's arms could not encircle. One hundred and twenty bushels of lentils were needed for ballast. Having fulfilled its purpose, the gigantic vessel was no longer wanted. Therefore, filled with stones and cement, it was sunk to form the foundations of the foremost quay of the new harbour at Ostia."[11]

Re-erecting the obelisk had daunted even Michelangelo, but Sixtus V was determined to erect it in front of St Peter's, of which the nave was yet to be built. He had a full-sized wooden mock-up erected within months of his election. Domenico Fontana, the assistant of Giacomo Della Porta in the Basilica's construction, presented the Pope with a little model crane of wood and a heavy little obelisk of lead, which Sixtus himself was able to raise by turning a little winch with his finger. Fontana was given the project.

The obelisk, half-buried in the debris of the ages, was first excavated as it stood; then it took from 30 April to 17 May 1586 to move it on rollers to the Piazza: it required nearly 1000 men, 140 carthorses, and 47 cranes. The re-erection, scheduled for 14 September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, was watched by a large crowd. It was a famous feat of engineering, which made the reputation of Fontana, who detailed it in a book illustrated with copperplate etchings, Della Trasportatione dell'Obelisco Vaticano et delle Fabriche di Nostro Signore Papa Sisto V (1590),[12][13] which itself set a new standard in communicating technical information and influenced subsequent architectural publications by its meticulous precision.[14] Before being re-erected the obelisk was exorcised. It is said that Fontana had teams of relay horses to make his getaway if the enterprise failed. When Carlo Maderno came to build the Basilica's nave, he had to put the slightest kink in its axis, to line it precisely with the obelisk.

Three more obelisks were erected in Rome under Sixtus V: the one behind Santa Maria Maggiore (1587), the giant obelisk at the Lateran Basilica (1588), and the one at Piazza del Popolo (1589).[15]

An obelisk stands in front of the church of Trinità dei Monti, at the head of the Spanish Steps. Another obelisk in Rome is sculpted as carried on the back of an elephant. Rome lost one of its obelisks, the Boboli obelisk which had decorated the temple of Isis, where it was uncovered in the 16th century. The Medici claimed it for the Villa Medici, but in 1790 they moved it to the Boboli Gardens attached to the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, and left a replica in its stead.

The Romans filled their city with 8 large and 42 small Egyptian obelisks. More have been re-erected elsewhere, and the best-known examples outside Rome are the pair of 21-metre (69 ft) 187-metric-ton (206-short-ton) Cleopatra's Needles in London (21 metres or 69 feet) and New York City (21 metres or 70 feet) and the 23-metre (75 ft) 227-metric-ton (250-short-ton) obelisk at the Place de la Concorde in Paris.[16]

Tip of Hatshepsut's fallen obelisk, Karnak Temple Complex, Luxor, Egypt
Hippodrome Oblisk
The Obelisk of Tuthmosis III, Istanbul, Turkey
Bartholomeus Breenbergh 002
The Dutch Golden Age painter Bartholomeus Breenbergh placed an obelisk in the background of his 1655 painting Joseph Sells Grain

There are ancient Egyptian obelisks in the following locations:


Obelisk monuments are also known from the Assyrian civilization, where they were erected as public monuments that commemorated the achievements of the Assyrian king.

The British Museum possesses four Assyrian obelisks:

The White Obelisk of Ashurnasirpal I (named due to its colour), was discovered by Hormuzd Rassam in 1853 at Nineveh. The obelisk was erected by either Ashurnasirpal I (1050–1031 BC) or Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BC). The obelisk bears an inscription that refers to the king's seizure of goods, people and herds, which he carried back to the city of Ashur. The reliefs of the Obelisk depict military campaigns, hunting, victory banquets and scenes of tribute bearing.

The Rassam Obelisk, named after its discoverer Hormuzd Rassam, was found on the citadel of Nimrud (ancient Kalhu). It was erected by Ashurnasirpal II, though only survives in fragments. The surviving parts of the reliefs depict scenes of tribute bearing to the king from Syria and the west.[19]

The Black Obelisk was discovered by Sir Austen Henry Layard in 1846 on the citadel of Kalhu. The obelisk was erected by Shalmaneser III and the reliefs depict scenes of tribute bearing as well as the depiction of two subdued rulers, Jehu the Israelite and Sua the Gilzanean, giving gestures of submission to the king. The reliefs on the obelisk have accompanying epigraphs, but besides these the obelisk also possesses a longer inscription that records one of the latest versions of Shalmaneser III's annals, covering the period from his accessional year to his 33rd regnal year.

The Broken Obelisk, that was also discovered by Rassam at Nineveh. Only the top of this monolith has been reconstructed in the British Museum. The obelisk is the oldest recorded obelisk from Assyria, dating to the 11th century BC.[20]

Axumite (Ethiopia)

A number of obelisks were carved in the ancient Axumite Kingdom of today northern Ethiopia. Together with (21-metre-high or 69-foot) King Ezana's Stele, the last erected one and the only unbroken, the most famous example of axumite obelisk is the so-called (24-metre-high or 79-footh) Obelisk of Axum. It was carved around the 4th century AD and, in the course of time, it collapsed and broke into three parts. In these conditions it was found by Italian soldiers in 1935, after the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, looted and taken to Rome in 1937, where it stood in the Piazza di Porta Capena. Italy agreed in a 1947 UN agreement to return the obelisk but did not affirm its agreement until 1997, after years of pressure and various controversial settlements. In 2003 the Italian government made the first steps toward its return, and in 2008 it was finally re-erected.

The largest known obelisk, the Great Stele at Axum, now fallen, at 33 metres (108 ft) high and 3 m (9.8 ft) by 2 m (6 ft 7 in) at the base (520 metric tons or 570 short tons)[21] is one of the largest single pieces of stone ever worked in human history (the largest is either at Baalbek or the Ramesseum) and probably fell during erection or soon after, destroying a large part of the massive burial chamber underneath it. The obelisks, properly termed stelae or the native hawilt or hawilti as they do not end in a pyramid, were used to mark graves and underground burial chambers. The largest of the grave markers were for royal burial chambers and were decorated with multi-storey false windows and false doors, while nobility would have smaller less decorated ones. While there are only a few large ones standing, there are hundreds of smaller ones in "stelae fields".

Ancient Roman

Örme dikilitaş
The Walled Obelisk in Sultanahmet Square

The Romans commissioned obelisks in an ancient Egyptian style. Examples include:


  • Walled Obelisk, Hippodrome of Constantinople. Built by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (905–959) and originally covered with gilded bronze plaques.


The prehistoric Tello Obelisk, found in 1919 at Chavín de Huantar in Peru, is a monolith stele with obelisk-like proportions. It was carved in a design of low relief with Chavín symbols, such as bands of teeth and animal heads. Long housed in the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú in Lima, it was relocated to the Museo Nacional de Chavín, which opened in July 2008. The obelisk was named for the archeologist Julio C. Tello, who discovered it and was considered the "father of Peruvian archeology." He was America's first indigenous archeologist.[24]

Modern obelisks

(Listed in date order)

17th century

Obelisk name Image Location Country Elevation Completed Coordinates Notes
m ft
Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins Fontaine-des-Quatre-Dauphins in Aix-en-Provence Aix-en-Provence France 1667 43°31′35″N 5°26′44″E / 43.52639°N 5.44556°E

18th century

Obelisk name Image Location Country Elevation Completed Coordinates Notes
m ft
Market Square obelisk The obelisk, Ripon market place (geograph 4950159) Ripon United Kingdom 24 80 1702 The first large scale obelisk in Britain.[25]
Stillorgan Obelisk Stillorgan Obelisk Tower Stillorgan, Dublin Ireland 30 100 1727
St Luke Church Finsbury st lukes 1 London United Kingdom circa 1727–33 spire by Nicholas Hawksmoor
Boyne Obelisk Square obelisk by footbridge with iron railing over wide stream, woods in background, Drogheda, Co. Meath cleaned up version near Drogheda, County Louth Ireland 53 174 1736 To commemorate William of Orange's victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 (destroyed in 1923, only the base remains).
Conolly's Folly Conollys Folly - the obelisk Leixlip, County Kildare Ireland 1740
Killiney Hill Obelisk Killiney Hill Obelisk 2 Killiney, County Dublin Ireland 1742
Mamhead obelisk Obelisk, Mamhead - geograph.org.uk - 814943 Mamhead United Kingdom 30 100 1742–1745 An aid to shipping.[26]
General Wolfe's Obelisk Stowe, Wolfe's Obelisk - geograph.org.uk - 152791 Stowe School, Buckinghamshire United Kingdom 1754
Montreal Park Obelisk Riverhead, Sevenoaks, Kent United Kingdom 1761 Lord Jeffery Amherst's Obelisk.[27]
St George's Circus Obelisk St George's Obelisk St George's Circus, London United Kingdom 1771 Obelisk by Robert Mylne
Kagul Obelisk Kagul obelisk Tsarskoe Selo Russia 1772
Chesma Obelisk Gatchina. Chesmensky obelisk. 2010 (2) Gatchina Russia 1775
Villa Medici Giardini di villa medici, piazzale, fontana con copia obelisco di boboli (un tempo qui) Rome Italy 1790 A 19th-century copy of the Egyptian obelisk moved to the Boboli Gardens in Florence
Obelisk Fountain Restored Obelisk Fountain on James street in Dublin 1790 James St., Dublin Ireland 1790
Constable Obelisk Gatchina obelisk Gatchina Palace, Gatchina Russia 1793
Moore-Vallotton Incident marker Wexford Ireland 1793 [28]
Rumyantsev Obelisk Rumyantsev skver St Petersburg Russia 1799
Obelisk at Slottsbacken Obelisken Stockholm Sweden 1800

19th century

Tyndale Monument
Tyndale Monument

20th century

Obelisk name Image Location Country Elevation Completed Coordinates Notes
m ft
William Dudley Chipley Memorial Wmdudleychipleyobelisk Plaza Ferdinand VII, Pensacola, Florida United States 1901 30°26′N 87°12′W / 30.433°N 87.200°W
Sergeant Floyd Monument Sergeant Floyd Monument, sunset Sioux City, Iowa United States 1901 42°27′45″N 96°22′39″W / 42.46250°N 96.37750°W [51]
Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial JosephSmithBirthplace South Royalton, Vermont United States 15 50 1905 43°49′25″N 72°28′23″W / 43.823473°N 72.47308°W [52]:118
McKinley Monument McKinley Monument Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York United States 29 96 1907 42°53′11″N 78°52′41″W / 42.88639°N 78.87806°W [53]
The Veterans' Monument Elizabethton, Tennessee United States 1904 Dedicated to American Civil War veterans from Carter County, Tennessee.
Finn's Point National Cemetery Pennsville Township, New Jersey United States 26 85 1910 Erected by the U.S. government in 1910 to memorialize Confederate soldiers buried at the cemetery.
Coronation Memorial The Obelsik marking the Durbar of King George V at Coronation Park, Delhi.2JPG Coronation Park, Delhi India To commemorate the founding of New Delhi in 1911 followed by other obelisks around the Rashtrapati Bhavan
Victory Memorial Fort Recovery obelisk Fort Recovery, Ohio United States 31 101 1913 [54]
Rizal Monument Statue of Dr. Jose Rizal at the Luneta Park, Philippines Luneta Park, Manila Philippines 12.7 42 1913 14°34′54″N 120°58′36″E / 14.581669°N 120.976694°E built to commemorate the executed Filipino nationalist, José Rizal.
National Women's Monument 9 2 302 0045-Women's Monument Bloemfontein-s Bloemfontein South Africa 1913 29°08′30″S 26°12′30″E / 29.1416°S 26.2083°E [55]
Ozark Trail Obelisk commemorating Ozark Trail in Farwell, Texas Various locations including Stroud, Oklahoma, Farwell, Dimmitt, Wellington, and Tulia, Texas United States 1913 Formerly a series of 21 obelisks
PAX Memorial Walmer, Port Elizabeth South Africa 6 20 1919 A World War I memorial to local fallen soldiers.[56]
Flagler Monument Flagler-Memorial-Island-MAR2007 Flagler Monument Island, Miami Beach, Florida United States 34 110 1920 25°47′7″N 80°9′10″W / 25.78528°N 80.15278°W [57]
Southport War Memorial Obelisk, Lord Street, Southport (2) London Square, Southport, Lancashire, England United Kingdom 20.6 67.5 1923
Veterans Memorial Plaza Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, Indianápolis, Estados Unidos, 2012-10-22, DD 01 Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, Indianapolis, Indiana United States 30 100 1923 39°46′25″N 86°9′25″W / 39.77361°N 86.15694°W [58]
Jefferson Davis Monument JeffDavisMemorial Fairview, Kentucky United States 107 351 1924 Commemorating the birthplace
of the President
of the Confederate States of America
Boer War Monument King's Domain, Melbourne, Victoria Australia 23 75 1924 [59]
Camp Merritt Memorial Monument Camp Merritt Memorial Monument Cresskill, New Jersey United States 20 66 1924 Monument dedicated to the soldiers who passed through Camp Merritt, New Jersey, en route to Europe in World War I, particularly those who died at the camp due to the influenza epidemic of 1918
Hobart Cenotaph Hobart-War-Memorial-Cenotaph-2008 Queens Domain, Hobart, Tasmania Australia 1925 42°52′39″S 147°20′10″E / 42.87750°S 147.33611°E A World War I memorial[60]
The Big Red Apple Cornelia, Georgia Big Red Apple Cornelia, Georgia United States 2.4 8 1925 34°30′49″N 83°31′51″W / 34.51361°N 83.53083°W A short square obelisk with the world's largest apple on top stands[61]
Prague Castle Obelisk
(or Monolith from Mrákotín)
Prague Castle, Obelisk 2 Prague Castle, Prague Czech Republic 15.42 50.6 1930 50°5′25″N 14°24′1″E / 50.09028°N 14.40028°E
Obelisk of Montevideo
(or Obelisco a los Constituyentes de 1830)
Obelisco a los constituyentes Parque Batlle, Montevideo Uruguay 40 130 1930 34°53′51″S 56°09′52″W / 34.8975°S 56.1644°W [62]
High Point Monument High Point Monument from below High Point, Montague, New Jersey United States 67 220 1930 41°19′15″N 74°39′42″W / 41.32083°N 74.66167°W Located on top of New Jersey's highest point, 550 m (1,803 ft) above sea level.
Foro Italico Le Foro Italico (Rome) (5906477156) Lungotevere Maresciallo Diaz, Rome Italy 1932 41°55′55″N 12°27′32″E / 41.93194°N 12.45889°E Erected to honour Benito Mussolini.
Paterson Monument Paterson Monument Windmill Point, George Town, Tasmania Australia 1935 41°06′34″S 146°49′01″E / 41.10944°S 146.81694°E Erected to commemorate the 1804 landing of William Paterson (explorer).[63]
Obelisk of Buenos Aires Obelisco 2 San Nicolás, Buenos Aires Argentina 71.5 235 1936 34°36′13″S 58°22′54″W / 34.60361°S 58.38167°W
Trujillo Obelisk Obelisco Santo Domingo Santo Domingo Dominican Republic 42 137 1937
War Memorial Floriana War memorial.jpeg Floriana Malta 1938 35°53′37″N 14°30′29″E / 35.89361°N 14.50806°E [64]
San Jacinto Monument San Jacinto Monument La Porte, Texas United States 172.92 567.3 1939 29°45′00″N 95°04′51″W / 29.7499°N 95.0807°W [65][note 1]
Trylon and Perisphere 1939fairhelicline 1939 New York World's Fair, Flushing, New York United States 190 620 1939 40°44′47″N 73°50′42″W / 40.7463°N 73.8451°W Not a true obelisk, but an art deco variant.
Maungakiekie Obelisk Onetreehill monument01 One Tree Hill, Auckland New Zealand 1940 36°54′0″S 174°46′59″E / 36.90000°S 174.78306°E [67]
Victory Monument VictoryMonument - contrast Bangkok Thailand 1941 13°45′53″N 100°32′19″E / 13.76472°N 100.53861°E To commemorate the Thai victory in the Franco-Thai War, a brief conflict waged against the French colonial authorities in Indo-China, which resulted in Thailand annexing some territories in western Cambodia and northern and southern Laos. These were among the territories which the Kingdom of Siam had been forced to cede to France in 1893 and 1904, and patriotic Thais considered them rightfully to belong to Thailand.
Plaza Francia Obelisk Plaza Francia Altamira, Caracas Venezuela 1944 10°29′47″N 66°50′56″W / 10.49639°N 66.84889°W
Banská Bystrica Obelisk Banská Bystrica NamSNP 9238 Banská Bystrica Slovakia 1945 Commemorates the soldiers of the Red Army and those of the Romanian Army who fell while liberating the town.
Cenotaph on Leinster Lawn Cenetaphleinsterlawn2012 Leinster House, Dublin Ireland 18.28 60.0 1950 53°20′26″N 6°15′14″W / 53.34055°N 6.254021°W Erected to commemorate the memories of Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins and Kevin O'Higgins;[68] and replaced an earlier temporary cenotaph, erected in 1923.[69]
Lucas Gusher Obelisk Beaumont, Texas United States 1951 Recognizes the 50th anniversary of the birth of the liquid fuel age as the Lucas Gusher came in at Spindletop on January 10, 1901.
Heroes Monument Heroic Monument Surabaya Surabaya Indonesia 41.5 135.0 1952 7°14′46″S 112°44′15″E / 7.24611°S 112.73750°E Commemorate the events of November 10, 1945 at the Battle of Surabaya
Israel War of Independence Memorial Meron 181 Safed Israel 32°57′57″N 35°29′54″E / 32.96583°N 35.49833°E
Obelisk of São Paulo Obelisk of Sao Paulo São Paulo Brazil 72 236 1954 23°35′5″S 46°39′17″W / 23.58472°S 46.65472°W [70]
Monument to the abolition of slavery
(Monumento a la abolición de la esclavitud)
IMG 2972 - Abolition Park in Ponce, Puerto Rico Abolition Park, Ponce Puerto Rico 30 100 1956 18°00′21″N 66°36′46″W / 18.00583°N 66.61278°W [71]
Obelisk of La Paz Obelisco3LaPaz La Paz Bolivia 16°29′55″S 68°08′06″W / 16.49861°S 68.13500°W
Demidovsky Pillar Barnaul - Demidov Square Tsentralny City District, Barnaul, Altai Krai Russia 14 46 53°20′N 83°45′E / 53.333°N 83.750°E
Victory Obelisk
(Poklonnaya Hill Obelisk)
Victory Park Poklonnaya Hill Poklonnaya Hill, Moscow Russia 141.8 465 55°43′54″N 37°30′24″E / 55.73167°N 37.50667°E [72]
Bayonet-Obelisk of the War Memorial Brest Brest Fortress 9085 2150 Brest Fortress, Brest Belarus 100 330 1971 52°04′59″N 23°39′15″E / 52.082961°N 23.654251°E [73]
Trinity Nuclear Test Site Obelisk Trinity Site Obelisk National Historic Landmark Jornada del Muerto, Socorro, New Mexico United States 3.7 12 The location of the first atomic bomb explosion.[74]
Cairn to mark the Geographic Centre of North America Rugby-nd-obelisk-geographical-center-of-north-america Rugby, North Dakota United States 4.6 15 1971 The structure is more like a cairn sited near the geographical center of North America (Mexico, USA and Canada). The location of the geographical center is approximately 15 miles (24 km) for the location of the cairn.[75]
Pirulito da Praça Sete PraçaSeteBHMG Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais Brazil
Oregon Trail BoiseOregonTrailMonument Boise, Idaho United States 21 obelisks that mark the trail.[76][77]
Islamic Summit Minar Islamic Summit Minar Charing Cross Lahore, Punjab Pakistan 47 155 1974 An obelisk-shape structure built to commemorate the Organisation of Islamic Conference.
Luxor Hotel Luxor hotel (Las Vegas) obelisc Las Vegas, Nevada United States The obelisk stands in front of the hotel, a pyramid-shaped hotel along The Strip
Endicott, Triple Cities, New York United States 1975 An obelisk stands in front of radio talk show host Clint Ferro's boyhood home
Monumen Nasional Monas by day Merdeka Square, Jakarta Indonesia 1975 Symbolizing the fight for the independence of Indonesia
Juche Tower Tower of Juche Idea, Pyongyang, North Korea (2909246855) Pyongyang North Korea 170 560 1982 39°1′4″N 125°45′48″E / 39.01778°N 125.76333°E
Leningrad Hero City Obelisk IvanSmelov-VOSSTANIYA Vosstaniya Square, Saint Petersburg Russia 1985 59°55′52″N 30°21′43″E / 59.931°N 30.362°E
1948 Arab–Israeli War Memorial Ashdod-Ad-Halom-83 Ad Halom, Ashdod Israel 31°46′0″N 34°39′58″E / 31.76667°N 34.66611°E Memorial to Egypt's fallen soldiers[78]
Avis Obelisk Avis Farms Office Park, Pittsfield Township, Michigan United States 1998 42°13′21″N 83°42′52″W / 42.22250°N 83.71444°W
Bahá'í House of Worship Haifa site future Baha'i House of Worship Bahá'í World Centre buildings, Mount Carmel, Haifa Israel 1971 Marking the site of the future Bahá'í House of Worship.
Independence Monument Obelisk Myanmar-Yangon-Independence Monument in Mahabandoola park Maha Bandula Park, Yangon Myanmar [79]

21st century

Obelisk name Image Location Country Elevation Completed Coordinates Notes
m ft
Capas National Shrine The Obelisk at the Capas National Shrine Tarlac province Philippines 70 230 2003 15°20′56″N 120°32′43″E / 15.34891°N 120.545246°E
Kolonna Eterna Kolonna Eterna, San Gwann..jpeg San Gwann Malta 6 2003 35°54′35″N 14°28′36″E / 35.90972°N 14.47667°E Egyptian obelisk by Paul Vella Critien[80]
Colonna Mediterranea Colonna Mediterranea.jpeg Luqa Malta 3.0 10 2006 35°51′38″N 14°29′3″E / 35.86056°N 14.48417°E Abstract art by Paul Vella Critien[81]
Plaza Salcedo Obelisk Plaza Salcedo in Vigan City Vigan, Ilocos Sur Philippines 17°34′N 120°23′E / 17.567°N 120.383°E
Cyclisk Santa Rosa, California United States 20 65 Made of 340 bicycles[82]
Obelisco Novecento Rome Italy 2004 Sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro
Armed Forces Memorial National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire United Kingdom 2007
Särkynyt lyhty Tornio, Lapland Finland 9 30 Made of stainless steel

Erection experiments

In late summer 1999, Roger Hopkins and Mark Lehner teamed up with a NOVA crew to erect a 25-ton obelisk. This was the third attempt to erect a 25-ton obelisk; the first two, in 1994 and 1999, ended in failure. There were also two successful attempts to raise a two-ton obelisk and a nine-ton obelisk. Finally in August–September 1999, after learning from their experiences, they were able to erect one successfully.

First Hopkins and Rais Abdel Aleem organized an experiment to tow a block of stone weighing about 25 tons. They prepared a path by embedding wooden rails into the ground and placing a sledge on them bearing a megalith weighing about 25 tons. Initially they used more than 100 people to try to tow it but were unable to budge it. Finally, with well over 130 people pulling at once and an additional dozen using levers to prod the sledge forward, they moved it. Over the course of a day, the workers towed it 10 to 20 feet. Despite problems with broken ropes, they proved the monument could be moved this way.[83] Additional experiments were done in Egypt and other locations to tow megalithic stone with ancient technologies, some of which are listed here.

One experiment was to transport a small obelisk on a barge in the Nile River. The barge was built based on ancient Egyptian designs. It had to be very wide to handle the obelisk, with a 2 to 1 ratio length to width, and it was at least twice as long as the obelisk. The obelisk was about 3.0 metres (10 ft) long and no more than 5 metric tons (5.5 short tons). A barge big enough to transport the largest Egyptian obelisks with this ratio would have had to be close to 61-metre-long (200 ft) and 30-metre-wide (100 ft). The workers used ropes that were wrapped around a guide that enabled them to pull away from the river while they were towing it onto the barge. The barge was successfully launched into the Nile.

The final and successful erection event was organized by Rick Brown, Hopkins, Lehner and Gregg Mullen in a Massachusetts quarry. The preparation work was done with modern technology, but experiments have proven that with enough time and people, it could have been done with ancient technology. To begin, the obelisk was lying on a gravel and stone ramp. A pit in the middle was filled with dry sand. Previous experiments showed that wet sand would not flow as well. The ramp was secured by stone walls. Men raised the obelisk by slowly removing the sand while three crews of men pulled on ropes to control its descent into the pit. The back wall was designed to guide the obelisk into its proper place. The obelisk had to catch a turning groove which would prevent it from sliding. They used brake ropes to prevent it from going too far. Such turning grooves had been found on the ancient pedestals. Gravity did most of the work until the final 15° had to be completed by pulling the obelisk forward. They used brake ropes again to make sure it did not fall forward. On 12 September they completed the project.[84]

This experiment has been used to explain how the obelisks may have been erected in Luxor and other locations. It seems to have been supported by a 3,000-year-old papyrus scroll in which one scribe taunts another to erect a monument for "thy lord". The scroll reads "Empty the space that has been filled with sand beneath the monument of thy Lord."[85] To erect the obelisks at Luxor with this method would have involved using over a million cubic meters of stone, mud brick and sand for both the ramp and the platform used to lower the obelisk.[86] The largest obelisk successfully erected in ancient times weighed 455 metric tons (502 short tons). A 520-metric-ton (570-short-ton) stele was found in Axum, but researchers believe it was broken while attempting to erect it.

See also


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  1. ^ Measured in 1991 from its footing to the top of its beacon. The footing is 1.41 ft (0.43 m) below the top of the roadway pavement and the top of the beacon is 3.61 feet (1.10 m) above the top of the star.[66]

Further reading

  • Curran, Brian A., Anthony Grafton, Pamela O. Long, and Benjamin Weiss. Obelisk: A History. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-262-51270-1.
  • Chaney, Edward, "Roma Britannica and the Cultural Memory of Egypt: Lord Arundel and the Obelisk of Domitian", in Roma Britannica: Art Patronage and Cultural Exchange in Eighteenth-Century Rome, eds. D. Marshall, K. Wolfe and S. Russell, British School at Rome, 2011, pp. 147–70.
  • Iversen, Erik, Obelisks in exile. Copenhagen, Vol. 1 1968, Vol. 2 1972
  • Wirsching, Armin, Obelisken transportieren und aufrichten in Aegypten und in Rom. Norderstedt: Books on Demand 2007 (3rd ed. 2013), ISBN 978-3-8334-8513-8

External links

Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III is a black limestone Assyrian sculpture with many scenes in bas-relief and inscriptions. It comes from Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), in northern Iraq, and commemorates the deeds of King Shalmaneser III (reigned 858–824 BC). It is on display at the British Museum in London, and several other museums have cast replicas.

It is the most complete Assyrian obelisk yet discovered, and is historically significant because it is thought to display the earliest ancient depiction of a biblical figure – Jehu, King of Israel. The traditional identification of "Yaw" as Jehu has been questioned by some scholars, who proposed that the inscription refers to another king, Jehoram of Israel. Its reference to Parsua is also the first known reference to the Persians.

Tribute offerings are shown being brought from identifiable regions and peoples. It was erected as a public monument in 825 BC at a time of civil war, in the central square of Nimrud, close to the much earlier White Obelisk of Ashurnasirpal I. It was discovered by archaeologist Sir Austen Henry Layard in 1846 and is now in the British Museum.

Blue Obelisk

Blue Obelisk is an informal group of chemists who promote open data, open source, and open standards; it was initiated by Peter Murray-Rust and others in 2005. Multiple open source cheminformatics projects associate themselves with the Blue Obelisk, among which, in alphabetical order, Avogadro, Bioclipse, cclib, Chemistry Development Kit, GaussSum, JChemPaint, JOELib, Kalzium, Openbabel, OpenSMILES, and UsefulChem.

The project has handed out personal awards for achievements in promoting Open Data, Open Source and Open Standards. Among those who received a Blue Obelisk Award are:

Christoph Steinbeck (2006)

Geoff Hutchinson (2006)

Bob Hanson (2006),

Egon Willighagen (2007)

Jean-Claude Bradley (2007)

Ola Spjuth (2007)

Noel O'Boyle (2010)

Rajarshi Guha (2010)

Cameron Neylon (2010)

Alex Wade (2010)

Nina Jeliazkova (2010)

Henry Rzepa (2011)

Dan Zaharevitz (2011)

Sam Adams (2011)

Jens Thomas (2011)

Marcus Hanwell (2011)

Roger Sayle (2011)

the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (2012)

Saulius Gražulis (2014)

Antony Williams (2014)

Daniel Lowe (2014)

Andrew Lang (2014)

Matthew Todd (2014)

WikiChemists (2014)

Greg Landrum (2016)

Mark Forster (2016)

John Mayfield (2017)

Cleopatra's Needle (New York City)

Cleopatra's Needle in New York City is one of three similar named Egyptian obelisks and was erected in Central Park (at 40°46′46.67″N 73°57′55.44″W, west of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) on 22 February 1881. It was secured in May 1877 by judge Elbert E. Farman, the United States Consul General at Cairo, as a gift from the Khedive for the United States remaining a friendly neutral as the European powers – France and Britain – maneuvered to secure political control of the Egyptian government.

Made of red granite, the obelisk stands about 21 metres (69 ft) high, weighs about 200 tons, and is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, in 1475 BC. The granite was brought from the quarries of Aswan, near the first cataract of the Nile. The inscriptions were added about 200 years later by Ramesses II to commemorate his military victories. The obelisks were moved to Alexandria and set up in the Caesareum – a temple built by Cleopatra in honor of Mark Antony or Julius Caesar – by the Romans in 12 BC, during the reign of Augustus, but were toppled some time later. This had the fortuitous effect of burying their faces and so preserving most of the hieroglyphs from the effects of weathering.

Dagger (typography)

A dagger, obelisk, or obelus (†) is a typographical symbol that usually indicates a footnote if an asterisk has already been used. It is present in Unicode as U+2020 † DAGGER (HTML † · †). The term "obelisk" derives from the Greek: ὀβελίσκος (obeliskos), which means "little obelus"; from ὀβελός (obelos) meaning "roasting spit". It was originally represented by the subtraction ( − ) and division ( ÷ ) symbols by Ancient Greek scholars as critical marks in manuscripts.

A double dagger or diesis (‡) is a variant with two handles that usually marks a third footnote after the asterisk and dagger. In Unicode, it is encoded as U+2021 ‡ DOUBLE DAGGER (HTML ‡ · ‡).

The triple dagger (⹋) is a variant with three handles and is used by medievalists to indicate another level of notation. In Unicode, it is encoded as U+2E4B ⹋ TRIPLE DAGGER (HTML ⹋).

Hippodrome of Constantinople

The Hippodrome of Constantinople (Greek: Ἱππόδρομος τῆς Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, translit. Hippódromos tēs Kōnstantinoupóleōs) was a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. Today it is a square named Sultanahmet Meydanı (Sultan Ahmet Square) in the Turkish city of Istanbul, with a few fragments of the original structure surviving.

The word hippodrome comes from the Greek hippos (ἵππος), horse, and dromos (δρόμος), path or way. For this reason, it is sometimes also called Atmeydanı ("Horse Square") in Turkish. Horse racing and chariot racing were popular pastimes in the ancient world and hippodromes were common features of Greek cities in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine era.

Hyde Park Obelisk

The Hyde Park Obelisk is a heritage-listed obelisk that served as a sewer vent and is now a monument located in Hyde Park at the intersection of Elizabeth Street and Bathurst Street, in the Sydney central business district, in the City of Sydney local government area of New South Wales, Australia. It was designed and built by the NSW Department of Public Works. It is also known as The Obelisk and Obelisk Sewer Vent. It is also jokingly referred to as Thornton's Scent Bottle. The obelisk is owned by Sydney Water, an agency of the Government of New South Wales. It was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 15 November 2002.Completed in the Victorian Egyptian style, it was modelled on Cleopatra's Needle on the banks of London's River Thames. The overall structure is 22 metres (72 ft) high, which comprises a square sandstone base 6.5 metres (21 ft) high. The vent at the top is a filigreed bronze pyramidion.

List of obelisks in Rome

The city of Rome harbours the most obelisks in the world. There are eight ancient Egyptian and five ancient Roman obelisks in Rome, together with a number of more modern obelisks; there was also until 2005 an ancient Ethiopian obelisk in Rome.

The Romans used special heavy cargo carriers called obelisk ships to transport the monuments down the Nile to Alexandria and from there across the Mediterranean Sea to Rome. On site, large Roman cranes were employed to erect the monoliths.

Luxor Obelisk

The Luxor Obelisk (French: Obélisque de Louxor) is a 23 metres (75 ft) high Ancient Egyptian obelisk standing at the centre of the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France. It was originally located at the entrance to Luxor Temple, in Egypt. The Luxor Obelisk was classified as a historical monument in 1936.

This site was the location of the metro station, Concorde.

Macquarie Place Park

The Macquarie Place Park, also known as the Macquarie Place Precinct, is an heritage-listed small triangular urban park located in the Sydney central business district in the City of Sydney local government area of New South Wales, Australia. The former town square and milestone and now memorial, public park and monument is situated on the corner of Bridge Street and Loftus Street. It is named in honour of Governor Lachlan Macquarie. The precinct includes The Obelisk or Macquarie Obelisk, the Sirius anchor and gun/cannon, the Statue of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, the historic Underground Public Conveniences and the Christie Wright Memorial Fountain. The property was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 5 March 2010.Macquarie Place was the first formally laid out public space in Sydney in 1810, functioning as the town square. Along with Hyde Park, it is the oldest public park in Australia. Its size has been greatly reduced since colonial days. An obelisk from 1818 and designed by the New South Wales Government Architect, Francis Greenway, is located in the park and records the distance to various locations in New South Wales along the earliest roads developed in the colony. Later an anchor from the Norfolk Island wreckage of the First Fleet flagship, HMS Sirius, together with a cannon from the ship, were placed in the park. The Great North Walk to Newcastle southern terminus is at the obelisk in Macquarie Place.

Many important institutions have had establishments at Macquarie Place. In 1817 Australia's first bank, the Bank of New South Wales (later to become Westpac in 1982) opened in Macquarie Place. The State Library of New South Wales briefly had premises in the place during the 1830s. Opposite the place in Bridge Street is the original Department of Lands building, which was the department responsible for surveying and mapping New South Wales.In 1883 a statue of early Australian industrialist, Thomas Mort was unveiled in the park. In 1954 Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh marked the beginning of the Remembrance Driveway by planting two plane trees in Macquarie Place.

New Zealand Memorial

The New Zealand Memorial is an obelisk in Greenwich which commemorates 21 British officers and men of the Royal Navy who died in the New Zealand War of 1863–64. The memorial is located near the River Thames, east of the Cutty Sark, close to the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. It became a Grade II listed building in 1973.

The obelisk is made from pink-grey Cornish granite. It stands on a square plinth, which rests on three wide steps. The plinth is decorated with mouldings resembling chains and ropes, and bears inscriptions on each side. It was constructed c. 1872 and became Grade 2 listed in June 1973.

The 21 dead commemorated by the memorial include Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton (who commanded HMS Esk and after whom the city of Hamilton is named), Commander Edward Hay (who commanded HMS Harrier), and other officers and men from Esk, Harrier, and HMS Curacoa, HMS Eclipse, and HMS Miranda

The memorial was designed by Frederick Sang, who was commissioned by a memorial fund headed by Rear Admiral Sir William Wiseman, 8th Baronet, former commodore of the Australia Station. The obelisk was made by Charles Raymond Smith.

Obelisco de Buenos Aires

The Obelisco de Buenos Aires (Obelisk of Buenos Aires) is a national historic monument and icon of Buenos Aires. Located in the Plaza de la República in the intersection of avenues Corrientes and 9 de Julio, it was erected in 1936 to commemorate the quadricentennial of the first foundation of the city.

Obelisk, Pennsylvania

Obelisk is an unincorporated community in Upper Frederick Township and Lower Frederick Township in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States. Obelisk is located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Route 73 and Faust Road.According to tradition, the community was so named from image of an obelisk in the logo of paper collars sold in the area.

Obelisk of São Paulo

Obelisk of São Paulo (in Portuguese: Obelisco de São Paulo) or Obelisk of Ibirapuera (in Portuguese: Obelisco do Ibirapuera) is an obelisk in Ibirapuera Park in the city of São Paulo, Brazil.

This monument is a symbol of the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932, and the biggest monument of the city of São Paulo. The height of the monument is 72 meters (236 ft 3 in). The construction of the monument was started in 1947 and completed in 1970.

The obelisk is a project of the Italo-Brazilian sculptor Galileo Ugo Emendabili, who arrived at Brazil in 1923. The obelisk, made with pure travertine marble, was inaugurated on July 9, 1955, one year after the inauguration of Ibirapuera Park.

Obelisk of Theodosius

The Obelisk of Theodosius (Turkish: Dikilitaş) is the Ancient Egyptian obelisk of Pharaoh Thutmose III re-erected in the Hippodrome of Constantinople (known today as At Meydanı or Sultanahmet Meydanı, in the modern city of Istanbul, Turkey) by the Roman emperor Theodosius I in the 4th century AD.

Place de la Concorde

The Place de la Concorde (French pronunciation: ​[plas də la kɔ̃kɔʁd]) is one of the major public squares in Paris, France Measuring 7.6 hectares (19 acres) in area, it is the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city's eighth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées. It was the site of many notable public executions during the French Revolution.

Pylon (architecture)

Pylon is the Greek term (Greek: πυλών) for a monumental gateway of an Egyptian temple (Egyptian: bxn.t in the Manuel de Codage transliteration). It consists of two tapering towers, each surmounted by a cornice, joined by a less elevated section which enclosed the entrance between them. The entrance was generally about half the height of the towers. Contemporary paintings of pylons show them with long poles flying banners.

Senusret I

Senusret I, also anglicized as Sesostris I and Senwosret I, was the second pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt. He ruled from 1971 BC to 1926 BC (1920 BC to 1875 BC), and was one of the most powerful kings of this Dynasty. He was the son of Amenemhat I. Senusret I was known by his prenomen, Kheperkare, which means "the Ka of Re is created."He continued his father's aggressive expansionist policies against Nubia by initiating two expeditions into this region in his 10th and 18th years and established Egypt's formal southern border near the second cataract where he placed a garrison and a victory stele. He also organized an expedition to a Western Desert oasis. Senusret I established diplomatic relations with some rulers of towns in Syria and Canaan. He also tried to centralize the country's political structure by supporting nomarchs who were loyal to him. His pyramid was constructed at el-Lisht. Senusret I is mentioned in the Story of Sinuhe where he is reported to have rushed back to the royal palace in Memphis from a military campaign in Libya after hearing about the assassination of his father, Amenemhat I.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter's Square (Italian: Piazza San Pietro [ˈpjattsa sam ˈpjɛːtro], Latin: Forum Sancti Petri) is a large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave inside Rome, directly west of the neighbourhood or rione of Borgo. Both the square and the basilica are named after Saint Peter, an apostle of Jesus considered by some to be the first Pope.

At the centre of the square is an ancient Egyptian obelisk, erected at the current site in 1586. Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed the square almost 100 years later, including the massive Doric colonnades, four columns deep, which embrace visitors in "the maternal arms of Mother Church". A granite fountain constructed by Bernini in 1675 matches another fountain designed by Carlo Maderno in 1613.

Trinity House Obelisk

The Trinity House Obelisk, also known as the Trinity House Landmark, is a 19th-century obelisk located at Portland Bill, on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England. Built as a daymark, it has been Grade II Listed since 1978.The obelisk was built in 1844 to warn ships off the coast of Portland Bill. It stands at the southern tip of the Isle of Portland, acting as a warning of the low shelf of rock extending 30 metres south into the sea. The obelisk is made of Portland stone and is seven metres in height. It is inscribed "TH 1844" on its north face. The monument was saved from threatened demolition in 2002 after Trinity House deemed it too expensive to maintain.

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