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The Unfinished Obelisk, Aswan

The Unfinished Obelisk, Aswan

Obelisks were signs of victory, and the inscriptions carved on them record the titles and achievements of the Pharaohs. The tip of an obelisk, called the capstone or pyramidion, was cased with gold, its brilliant shine connecting it with the sun-god Re. Egypt's obelisks were chosen by the Discovery Channel as one of the top 10 archaeological "discoveries" in Egypt.


An obelisk is a tall, narrow, four-sided, tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top, said to resemble a 'petrified ray' of the sundisk. A pair of obelisks usually stood in front of a pylon (architecture). Ancient obelisks were often monolithic, whereas most modern obelisks are made of several stones and can have interior spaces.

The ancient Egyptians cut small obelisks to place inside the funerary temple associated with each pyramid. The oldest and the largest obelisk still standing, however, dates from the reign of Sesostris I in the Middle Kingdom, about 3,600 years ago. The site of the ancient city of Heliopolis, where this obelisk stands, was the centre for the worship of the sun- god, and temples dedicated to this deity were built here throughout much of Pharaonic history.

The granite quarry, located on the east bank of the Nile in the center of Aswan City; 2.5 miles from Aswan train station contains a very large unfinished obelisk -- a tall, pointed monument made of a single stone that was not completed because of latent cracks. While the cracks were bad for the ancient Egyptian stone carvers, the unfinished monument provides the opportunity for archaeologists to understand how people worked hard stone quarries.

The incomplete obelisk is more than 40 meters long and has been estimated to weigh more than 1.5 tons, according to the researchers' presentation. The unfinished obelisk can be dated back to 15th century B.C., which is in the Egyptian 18th dynasty -- a time when many of these obelisks were being constructed. Ancient Egyptians left the obelisk in the ground because of a fatal flaw that occurred when they were about to take it out.

Excavations by the Aswan Office of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt, began in 2002 to prepare the site for tourists. Among the discoveries made were a trench at least 8.25 feet deep. Archaeologists were unable to reach the bottom because of groundwater incursion.
Unfinished Obelisk - east bank of Nile in the center of Aswan City

Who built it?

Egypt`s biggest monolith Granite piece ,made by the most famous Egyptian female pharaoh -queen Hatshepsut - from 18th dynasty ,this queen wanted to erect the biggest and heaviest obelisk in Karnak temple to honor God Amon Re after she has placed other two obelisks in Karnak temple weighing 320 tones each she went for 1200 tones obelisk but unfortunately it had a crack before it was completed. Much of the red granite used for ancient temples and colossi came from quarries in the Aswan area. The Unfinished Obelisk still lies where a crack was discovered as it was being hewn from the rock. Possibly intended as a companion to the Lateran Obelisk, originally at Karnak, now in Rome, it would have measured 120-feet and weighed over 1150 tons when complete. The site has recently been renovated and equipped with tourist facilities. Nearby is the Fatimid Cemetery, hundreds of mud-brick tombs dating back to the 9th century AD.

It has long been suspected that ancient workers moved the massive artifacts directly to their final destinations over waterways. Ancient artwork shows Egyptians using boats or barges to move large monuments like obelisks and statues, and canals have also been discovered at the Giza pyramids and the Luxor Temple.

But the newfound canal, which has since been filled in, is the first proof discovered at the granite quarries in Aswan. Almost all obelisks, including those at the Luxor and Karnak Temples, were originally hewn in the Aswan area.

If you have time before heading back to Cairo, take a day tour ($16) to Abu Simbel to visit the Great Temple of Ramses II, the grandest of all of the Pharohs' monuments. Tours, which can be arranged at most hotels, usually include a stop at the Unfinished Obelisk and Philae Temple. The people who live here feel blessed to be living in the shadows of those obelisks, believing that the old kings still watch over them.

For More Information Visit: Aswan Tourism and Tourist Information

Last Updated on Sunday 5th December 2010