Nailettes
October 26, 2011 10:57 AM   Subscribe

There are around 30 ancient Egyptian obelisks left in the world. A guide to the obelisks still standing (and some Roman copies), including a timeline of their construction.
posted by Copronymus (22 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I. Love. This. The Egyptians were incredible.

When Alexander the Great took Egypt, the Great Pyramids of Giza were already over 2,000 years old..
posted by glaucon at 11:06 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want to make fun of the badly-translated Japanese, but I just can't. Charming too much it is. You should appreciate it.
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:06 AM on October 26, 2011


I had seem some in Rome, but hadn't realized how many were there--more than in Egypt, even. Even in St. Peter's square!

All your obelisk are belong to Rome.
posted by resurrexit at 11:07 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very cool. I didn't know there were only 30 left and I didn't know the one in Central Park by the Met was from Egypt.
posted by robstercraw at 11:10 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


SWEET

diodorus writes about egypt being a tourist trap w/r/t the pyramids

that makes me all :D
posted by beefetish at 11:24 AM on October 26, 2011


This is really great. Thanks.
posted by CheeseLouise at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2011


By Toutatis!

That's amazing how many are still extant, thanks for this
posted by rollick at 11:42 AM on October 26, 2011


"Oh great king Teti! Great are his many pyramdions!" ...that's from Cleopatra's Needle in New York...a 'pyramidion' btw is the little pyramid on the top of the obelisk, and one of their main useful features: covered in gold leaf, they would catch the rays of the sun and act like streetlights, or, if big enough, lighthouses.

there are TWO really great NOVA specials (they miiiight still be up on HULU...) on the erection of obelisks, where different teams of scientists and historians and engineers attempt to stand one up, using the materials available at the time. Both times: FAIL. (if you just try to pull it up with ropes (and tons of slaves), it will break in half)...the only clue we have to how they were put in place is that on all the plinths that they stand on there is a groove cut into one side, near the base of the obelisk...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:42 AM on October 26, 2011


Obelisks are awesome. One year my brother, sister, and I made a snow obelisk instead of the normal snowman. Needless to say it was badass.
posted by Deflagro at 11:45 AM on October 26, 2011


Here's how the Egyptians built these: The alien overlords who interbred with their people brought cold-fusion powered crafts to the desert and lifted up the stone obelisks using telekinesis.

For citation, watch the History Channel at any time.
posted by glaucon at 12:36 PM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I didn't know the one in Central Park by the Met was from Egypt.

Who knew reed boats had such range?
posted by dhartung at 12:43 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's amazing how many are still extant, thanks for this.

I feel the opposite way. I had presumed there were a lot more around. I'm quite surprised to discover that I've seen 50% of the world's existing obelisks.
posted by yeti at 12:43 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Part of what is so wonderful about visiting Egypt is seeing all of the half-finished, experimental, and transitional works that lead to some of the greatest things ever built by humans. A personal favorite is the Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan. It was probably supposed to be the twin of the big one at Karnak Temple, but there was a flaw in the rock that resulted in its abandonment. The rock is carved out around the column so that looking at it from above is like looking at a body in a massive open grave.

What is so astounding about Ancient Egyptian craftsmanship is that there are so few unfinished obelisks; there are only two, both in Aswan. How did they get the stone selection right so many times?

Oh, and the pyramids, all of them, are a big surprise. I'd seen thousands of pictures of the Great Pyramids before going to Egypt before seeing them in person. They look so grand and perfect that it is hard to imagine them being built without the help of aliens.

However, when you stand on the western bank of the Nile and look north and south you will see dozens of pyramids, most of them partially or entirely collapsed into heaps of rubble. It was thrilling to get to see the mistakes that preceded and followed the Great Pyramids, the ones that never make it into national geographic, but that provide clues as to how the Pyramids evolved. They weren't simply lowered from space, but came to be through trial and error.

My personal favorite is the Bent Pyramid at Dashur, named for the structural correction that happened during its construction. Space aliens would never make such a gross structural miscalculation. It's only about 40 years older than the Great Pyramid, and unlike any other pyramid it still has much of it smooth stone casing.

The same Pharaoh built another, better designed pyramid next door, the third largest in the world. It's amazing to think that they Egyptians needed to have practice pyramids.
posted by Alison at 12:50 PM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


glaucon: Here's how the Egyptians built these: The alien overlords who interbred with their people brought cold-fusion powered crafts to the desert and lifted up the stone obelisks using telekinesis.

For citation, watch the History Channel at any time.


You left out John Wilkes Booth's and Hitler's role.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:02 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's how the Egyptians built these: The alien overlords who interbred with their people brought cold-fusion powered crafts to the desert and lifted up the stone obelisks using telekinesis.

Thank goodness we buried the stargate.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:06 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who knew reed boats had such range?

The real story is great good fun, and written up in the short book, The New York Obelisk, or, How Cleopatra's Needle came to New York and what happened when it got here.

All had to do with plutocrats and the Navy engineer, Henry Honeychurch Gorringe. He wrote a bit as well.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:15 PM on October 26, 2011


Now I want to go to Rome on an obelisk-chasing tour.
posted by immlass at 4:44 PM on October 26, 2011


This is why I come to MetaFilter. Very cool.
posted by jwhite1979 at 5:00 PM on October 26, 2011


Just two sentences and a great post!!
posted by BlueHorse at 5:39 PM on October 26, 2011


When Alexander the Great took Egypt, the Great Pyramids of Giza were already over 2,000 years old..

Another way of saying it, Cleopatra is closer in time to us than she is to the Pyramids.
posted by wilful at 6:33 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I ran across the one in London accidentally many years ago. I was always curious how and why it got there. It seemed so random.

Now I know! Thanks for the post!
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 9:53 PM on October 26, 2011


Let's not forget Rome's own pyramid. From 12 BC.
posted by NailsTheCat at 3:11 PM on October 27, 2011


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