One of the marvelous monoliths of Aswan is the majestic Unfinished Obelisk which acts as a living proof of the unmatched intelligence and skill of ancient Egypt who wished to create an enormous tale from stone. It is without a doubt the largest obelisk ever constructed but unfortunately was uncompleted. It offers the chance to shed some light on how such massive structures were created in ancient Egypt during Egypt new kingdom by the hands of Hatshepsut. This immortal piece of glorious art is key to fully understand the secret to the ancient Egyptian construction process.
The History of the Unfinished Obelisk
It was built in a very unique manner as it depended on a Greek-style of architecture which had four sides converging to a mini pyramidal shape at the top of the obelisk. It was built in the new kingdom during the 18th dynasty by Queen Hatshepsut, the Wife of King Thutmose II (1478-1458 B.C) to be placed in the Karnak temple and to complement the Lateran Obelisk, originally located in Karnak before moved to Rome. It is located in its original location a red granite quarry in Aswan and if completes, it would have measured 42 m making it the tallest obelisk in history but the project was unfortunately abandoned due to the discovery of numerous cracks in the obelisk. It would also have been the heaviest obelisk weighing 1200 tons.
Origin of Obelisks
The obelisk was carved into the bedrock of red granite and designed to resemble the primeval hill from the myth of creation where the world appeared for the first time. The ancient Egyptians called the obelisk ‘Tekhenu” which means “To pierce the Sky” as they have associated with the BenBen an immortal mound that the creator god Atum stood above at the time of creation. Many scholars also believe that obelisk origin can be traced back to a natural astronomical event connected to the zodiac lights, constellations, and the sun.
The Construction of the Unfinished Obelisk
The location that holds the obelisk is considered to be an open-air museum. The obelisk is able to tell us about the instruments used to construct this massive monument such as dolerite which is a small ball made of a mineral harder than granite to carve the obelisk out. They also used many creative building techniques to free the obelisk from the bedrock as they made some small cavities in the rock and those cavities were filled with wood chips. The chips were soaked with water. The soaking would expand causing the obelisk to detach from the base.
Other Obelisks in Egypt
There are additional eight great Obelisks, which remain in Egypt till today:
- Karnak temple, Thebes established by King Tuthmosis I.
- Karnak temple, Thebes established by Queen Hatshepsut, which is the second obelisk (fallen)
- Karnak temple, Thebes raised by Seti II (7m).
- Luxor temple established by Ramses II.
- Luxor Museum raised by Ramses II
- Heliopolis, Cairo raised by Senusret I.
- Gezira Island, Cairo established by Ramses II (20.4m high / 120 tons).
- Cairo International Airport established by Ramses II 16.97m high.
Tours to the Wonders of Egypt
There are a lot of mesmerizing ancient Egyptian attractions in Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, and Alexandria that should be discovered, so if you are interested in history and ancient landmarks, then you can check our luxury Egypt tours and Nile River cruise and choose your favorite trip to Egypt.