10 May 2009

Hatshepsut's Unfinished Obelisk

Ordered by Pharaoh Hatshepsut to commemorate her 16th year on the throne, this obelisk would have been by far the largest ever erected in ancient Egypt.

Not Exactly An Uppity Obelisk

Sadly, it was never finished but remains in situ attached to the rock on one side. Situated in the northern part of the Aswan quarries, this gigantic single piece of speckled red-and-black granite is attributed to Hatshepsut, very similar, in fact, to her twin obelisks in the Temple of Karnak. If the dating to her 16th year is correct, it must have been the last building order she ever gave. And, certainly, one of her most ambitious.

When finished, the obelisk would have measured around 42 m (120 feet) and weighed nearly 1,200 metric tons.
O ye people who see this monument in years to come and speak of that which I have made, beware lest you say, "I know not why it was done". I did it because I wished to make a gift for my father Amun, and to gild [it] with electrum.
It would appear that the stone developed a flaw during quarrying and was never completed.

It couldn't draw cosmic energy down to earth (as a kind of godly antenna) if it were cracked, so it was left in the quarry, still attached to the rock, for the next 3,500 years.

It has been a tourist attraction for almost as long.

Above, is a stunning satellite picture of this "Unfinished Obelisk" (click to enlarge) -- with tourists duly dwarfed by the immensity of the stone -- taken from Google's Earth From Above series (collected and posted in La Terre vue du Ciel by Yann Arthus-Bertrandt). You can find it at 24°01’ N, 32°58’ E.

Not a successfully uppity obelisk, I must admit, but you can't fault Hatshepsut for trying. It would have been one of the Wonders of the World, and I bet she knew it.

My thanks to Andie Byrnes at Egyptology News for signalling Yann Arthus-Bertrandt's website. While visiting Yann's site, you can add your own gadget "Earth From Above" to your iGoogle page. Really, that's the point of this post. I'm gobsmacked.

If you want to know the detail possible from the 'spy in the sky' satellite, how about this:

Spot the fox trotting across the pyramid's stones, near Cairo -- at 29°58’ N - 31°07’ E, to be precise.

Gobsmacked, as I say.


  1. Wow. There goes my afternoon.

  2. Anonymous31/5/09 00:14

    Incredible! Marvelous!
    Thanks for the links to Benu and the dig near Menkaure piramid.

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