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Obelisk envy
June 15, 2014 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Cleopatra's Needle, the 3,500 year old obelisk that has been installed in Central Park for the past century, is about to cleaned, with lasers.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (23 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wonder how "freaking lasers" are different than regular lasers?
posted by Oyéah at 11:17 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Oh noooo! The lasers will awaken the sleeping spirit of Thutmose III, who will summon an army of Masonic zombies. Calling Dan Brown.......
posted by mermayd at 11:20 AM on June 15 [5 favorites]


I wonder how "freaking lasers" are different than regular lasers?

"Freaking" means attached to a shark's head. These are just boring old cleaning lasers.
posted by codswallop at 11:23 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]


In Soviet NOD, obelisk lasers you!
posted by spaceman_spiff at 11:26 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]


Perhaps we should make a copy and then return the originals to Egypt.
posted by humanfont at 11:33 AM on June 15 [14 favorites]


I want to learn more about the lasers! Can I clean my bathtub with these lasers?
posted by oceanjesse at 11:45 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Once the lasers are activated, the obelisk will open up and out will come... Something.
posted by arcticseal at 11:58 AM on June 15


Oh my God, in the future, someone like The Dirt Terminator 20, will come to your home with an industrial laser, go over the place, and then the French Maid Robot will simply dust, fait accompli. They will tune up my skin treatments, and I will be automatically billed, I hope the obelisk turns out OK, and they figure out a good surface treatment for preservation, I want that too!
posted by Oyéah at 12:07 PM on June 15


The obelisk was basically destroyed in the past 133 years because the inscription is being weathered by acid rain. It's a crime that they've let the thing sit outside exposed to the elements for so long.
posted by empath at 12:14 PM on June 15 [5 favorites]


Is cleaning it going to slow down or just speed up the destruction of the inscriptions?

They should really be building a roof over it. Or burying it back in the desert where it was safe for thousands of years.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:23 PM on June 15


Martina D'Alton wrote a fun book on how the needle got there in the first place. Every major city should have an obelisk- where was New York's, dammit?
posted by BWA at 12:24 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know why the London obelisk (NYC's twin) is in much better shape? It even survived Victorian London. All I could find was this paper abstract which implies they did not start out completely equal.

Scroll down to the comparative pictures on the bottom of this page and you'll see what I mean. The one in Paris looks pretty good too.
posted by vacapinta at 1:23 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Does anyone know why the London obelisk (NYC's twin) is in much better shape?

You know...New Yorkers.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:17 PM on June 15 [3 favorites]


You even been there?
posted by planetesimal at 2:19 PM on June 15


What's odd is that most of it is in terrible shape, but it's patchy. This photo is from the article vacapinta linked to. The Paris obelisk is on the left, the NYC one is in the center, and the London one is on the right. Most of the inscriptions on the NYC one have been almost totally eroded away, except for the glyphs along the rightmost edge in the photo, which are in markedly better condition.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 3:19 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


The obelisk was transported by Henry Honeychurch Gorringe who had a thing about obelisks and wrote a book about the difficulties in getting the stone from there to here. Lots of pictures, including, on page 65, shots of all four sides at the time of the moving. (See also this and this.) Clearly it wasn't in the best of shape when he got a hold of it. Well, he did get what was left over after Rome, Constantinople, Paris, and London had taken their picks. Stands to reason New York's is the worst of the bunch.
posted by BWA at 5:05 PM on June 15 [3 favorites]


Does anyone know why the London obelisk (NYC's twin) is in much better shape?

Much less acidic rain, much less freezing weather in London than NYC. Many places in the NE will wrap statues up in winter because of the combination of the acidic rain/snow and the freeze/thaw/freeze cycle does too much damage.

What's odd is that most of it is in terrible shape, but it's patchy.

Probably differing density of granite in the obelisk. Egyptian obelisks were quarried out of horizontal beds, and are large enough that you can get different mixtures/densities in the same work. A big factor is how much feldspar and mica are in a given part of the material -- the more of them, the faster they wear under acidic conditions.

Finally, of course, the prevailing winds are westerly in NYC, so you'd expect the west face to see the most weathering and the east face the least.
posted by eriko at 8:25 PM on June 15 [8 favorites]


Perhaps we should make a copy and then return the originals to Egypt.

Impossible. Relinquishing such a monumental phallus would symbolically emasculate our great nation.
posted by homunculus at 9:04 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]


they took a picture of the one side that had been damaged from fire. There is some damage, but if you actually look at the articles which are mostly just pictures of the dang thing, you'll see the damage is mostly on one side only.

Here's a translation of the sides
posted by rebent at 8:30 AM on June 16


Usually the rule of thumb is not to read the comments, but there's a fairly interesting discussion about when to return antiquities going on the comment stream for the Gizmodo link ("lasers").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:13 AM on June 16


The one in Paris is in even better shape than the comparison picture would lead you to believe: My Pic1 and My Pic2.
posted by soelo at 1:22 PM on June 16


Perhaps we should make a copy and then return the originals to Egypt.

That would make sense if these were artifacts taken by an archaeology expedition, but this obelisk and the ones in London and Paris were all gifts from Egyptian officials. That doesn't settle the issue, I realize, but I don't think these particular items are a sore spot between Egypt and France/UK/US, are they?
posted by soelo at 1:37 PM on June 16


Meh, lasers.

Now if they'd put a can of Fancy Feast on top and turn loose 50 soapy wet cats, not THAT would be freakin' cool!
posted by BlueHorse at 9:07 PM on June 16


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