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Obelisks - Is there a link between them all?

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When doing my preparation for this weeks meeting I noticed a reference to Daniel 3:1 of the 27m high image that Nebuchadnezzar made, (possible of himself), on the plain of Dura, although not an obelis

A very interesting article, I have vague......very vague..........recollections of it. thanks for the renewed recollection on the subject.

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From Egypt to Cities Around the World


“THEY have ‘traveled’ out of the land of their origin,” says the Italian magazine Archeo, “becoming tangible symbols of the great civilization that had produced them.” Most left Egypt long ago and were brought to such places as Istanbul, London, Paris, Rome, and New York. Visitors to Rome may observe that many of the city’s most famous squares are adorned by their presence. What are they? Obelisks!

Each tapering four-faced stone column, known as an obelisk, is crowned by a pointed cusp in the form of a pyramid. The earliest dates back some 4,000 years. Even the most recent one is about 2,000 years old.

Obelisks, generally of red granite, were quarried by the ancient Egyptians as monolithic blocks of stone and were erected in front of tombs and temples. Some are huge. The largest still standing rises 105 feet [32 m] above a Roman piazza and weighs some 455 tons. Most are embellished with hieroglyphs.

The monuments’ purpose was to honor the sun-god Ra. They were erected to thank him for his protection and for victories granted to Egyptian sovereigns as well as to request favors. Their shape is thought to have been derived from that of the pyramid. They represent beams of sunlight descending to warm and illuminate the earth.

Additionally, obelisks were used to glorify the Pharaohs. Their inscriptions proclaim various Egyptian sovereigns as “beloved of Ra” or “beautiful . . . like Atum,” who was the god of the sun at sunset. One obelisk says of a Pharaoh’s military prowess: “His power is like that of Monthu [god of war], the bull that tramples foreign lands and kills rebels.”

The first obelisks were raised in the Egyptian city of Junu (the Biblical On), thought to mean “City of the Pillar,” perhaps referring to the obelisks themselves. The Greeks called Junu Heliopolis, meaning “City of the Sun,” since it was the chief center of Egyptian sun worship. The Greek name Heliopolis corresponds to the Hebrew name Beth-shemesh, meaning “House of the Sun.”

The Bible’s prophetic book of Jeremiah speaks of the breaking of “the pillars of Beth-shemesh, which is in the land of Egypt.” This may refer to the obelisks of Heliopolis. God condemned the idolatrous worship they represented.Jeremiah 43:10-13.

Extraction and Transportation

How obelisks were made is shown by the largest of these monuments. It still lies abandoned near Aswân, Egypt, where it was being quarried. After choosing a promising bed of rock and leveling it, workers excavated trenches around what was to become the obelisk. They dug passages beneath it and filled them with beams, until the bottom face was freed. The monolith, which weighed about 1,170 tons—heavier than any other block of stone quarried by the ancient Egyptians—was then to have been hauled down to the Nile and conveyed to its destination by barge.

As things turned out, the Aswân obelisk was abandoned when workers realized that it was irreparably fractured. Had it been finished, it would have stood 137 feet [42 m] high, with a base 13 feet square [4 m by 4 m]. How obelisks were raised upright is still not known.

From Egypt to Rome

In 30 B.C.E., Egypt became a Roman province. Various Roman emperors desired to adorn their capital with monuments of great prestige, so as many as 50 obelisks were transferred to Rome. Moving them meant building huge ships designed especially for that purpose. Once in Rome, the obelisks continued to be closely associated with sun worship.

When the Roman Empire fell, Rome was ransacked. Most of the obelisks were toppled and lay forgotten. Various popes, however, took an interest in reerecting the obelisks taken from the ruins of the ancient city. The Roman Catholic Church has acknowledged that the obelisks were “dedicated to the Sun by an Egyptian king” and that they once “brought vain magnificence to sacrilegious pagan temples.”

The reerection of the first obelisks during the reign of Pope Sixtus V (1585-90) was accompanied by exorcisms and blessings, as well as the sprinkling of holy water and the burning of incense. “I exorcise you,” sang a bishop before the Vatican obelisk, “to bear the holy Cross and remain devoid of all pagan impurity and all assaults of spiritual iniquity.”

So as a tourist examines the obelisks that stand in Rome today, he may well ponder the genius it took to extract, transport, and raise them. He may also marvel that monuments used in sun worship adorn the city of the popes—a strange combination indeed!




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The first thing you might not know about obelisks is what they are. If you have ever visited the Washington Monument, however, or walked across the Place de la Concorde in Paris, or seen any rendering of ancient Egypt in its glory, you are very familiar with obelisks: vertical stone columns that taper as they rise, topped by a pyramid. Washington’s Monument and the Fascinating History of the Obelisk, by John Steele Gordon, is an absorbing account of the obelisk’s place in human civilization. Here are seven things revealed by Gordon that you might not know about obelisks


The ancient Egyptians placed pairs of obelisks at the entrances of their temples. According to Gordon, the columns were associated with the Egyptian sun god, and perhaps represented rays of light. They were often topped with gold, or a natural gold-and-silver alloy called electrum, in order to catch the first rays of the morning light. Twenty-eight Egyptian obelisks remain standing, though only six of them are in Egypt. The rest are scattered across the globe, either gifts from the Egyptian government or plunder by foreign invaders.



Around 250 B.C., a Greek philosopher named Eratosthenes used an obelisk to calculate the circumference of the Earth. He knew that at noon on the Summer Solstice, obelisks in the city of Swenet (modern day Aswan) would cast no shadow because the sun would be directly overhead (or zero degrees up). He also knew that at that very same time in Alexandria, obelisks did cast shadows. Measuring that shadow against the tip of the obelisk, he came to the conclusion that the difference in degrees between Alexandria and Swenet: seven degrees, 14 minutes—one-fiftieth the circumference of a circle. He applied the physical distance between the two cities and concluded that the circumference of the Earth was (in modern units) 40,000 kilometers. This isn’t the correct number, though his methods were perfect: at the time it was impossible to know the precise distance between Alexandria and Swenet.

If we apply Eratosthenes's formula today, we get a number astonishingly close to the actual circumference of the Earth. In fact, even his inexact figure was more precise than the one used by Christopher Columbus 1700 years later. Had he used Eratosthenes’s estimation, Columbus would have known immediately that he hadn’t reached India.


True obelisks as conceived by the ancient Egyptians are “monolithic,” or made from a single piece of stone. (The literal translation of monolith—a Greek word—is “one stone.” On that note, the word “obelisk” is also Greek, derived from obeliskos, or skewer. An ancient Egyptian would have called an obelisk a tekhen.) The obelisk at the center of Place de la Concorde, for example, is monolithic. It is 3300 years old and once marked the entrance to the Temple of Thebes in Egypt. So difficult is the feat of building a monolithic obelisk that Pharaoh Hatshepsut had inscribed at the base of one of her obelisks the proud declaration: “without seam, without joining together.”


Nobody knows exactly why obelisks were built, or even how. Granite is really hard—a 6.5 on the Mohs scale (diamond being a 10)—and to shape it, you need something even harder. The metals available at the time were either too soft (gold, copper, bronze) or too difficult to use for tools (iron’s melting point is 1,538 °C; the Egyptians wouldn’t have iron smelting until 600 B.C.).

The Egyptians likely used balls of dolerite to shape the obelisks, which, Gordon notes, would have required “an infinity of human effort.” Hundreds of workers would have each had to pound granite into shape using dolerite balls that weighed up to 12 pounds. This doesn’t even address the issue of how one might move a 100-foot, 400-ton column from the quarry to its destination. While there are many hypotheses, nobody knows precisely how they did it.


Until the 19th century, hieroglyphics were thought to be untranslatable—mystical symbols with no coherent message beneath. Jean-François Champollion, a French Egyptologist and linguist, thought differently, and made it his life’s purpose to figure them out. His first success came from the Rosetta Stone, from which he divined the name “Ptolemy” from the symbols. In 1819, “Ptolemy” was also discovered written on an obelisk which had just been brought back to England—the Philae obelisk. The “p,” “o,” and “l” on the obelisk also featured elsewhere on it, in the perfect spots to spell the name “Cleopatra.” (Not that Cleopatra; the much earlier Queen Cleopatra IX of Ptolemy.) With those clues, and using this obelisk, Champollion managed to crack the mysterious code of hieroglyphics, translating their words and thus unlocking the secrets of ancient Egypt. (Almost 200 years later, the European Space Agency’s mission to land a spacecraft on a comet commemorated these events; the spacecraft is named Rosetta. The lander is named Philae.)


The oldest obelisks are almost impossibly old—ancient even by the standards of antiquity. Seaton Schroeder, an engineer who helped bring Cleopatra’s Needle to Central Park, called it a “might monument of hoary antiquity,” and commented eloquently, “From the carvings on its face we read of an age anterior to most events recorded in ancient history; Troy had not fallen, Homer was not born, Solomon’s temple was not built; and Rome arose, conquered the world, and passed into history during the time that this austere chronicle of silent ages has braved the elements.”


First conceived in 1832, the Washington Monument took decades to build. It is, by law, the tallest structure in the District of Columbia, and is twice as tall as any other obelisk in the world. Gordon notes that it stands unique among memorials in Washington. Whereas people visit memorials to Lincoln and Jefferson (among others) to see giant statues of the men they commemorate, the highlight of the Washington Monument is the monument itself. The statue of Washington inside receives little notice. As Gordon writes in Washington’s Monument, “The obelisk, silent as only stone can be, nonetheless seems to say as nothing else can, ‘Here is something significant.’”





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