Cleopatra's Needle, The Obelisk in NYC
I’m a terrible New Yorker. There are so many things in my own city that I’ve never seen, that I’ve never heard of, that I didn’t care to experience in the past. I’d like to change that. Bright and early on a Saturday morning I found myself strolling through Central Park. The bluest of blue skies, clouds that looked straight our of Toy Story, and green surrounding me everywhere. Being someone constantly immersed in concrete and glass it definitely felt like I’d been transported to some faraway land. There was a whole great list of things I wanted to see, which I’m sure I’ll feel compelled to write about sometime soon, but one of the things I was most excited for was the Obelisk.
I’ve always had a fascination with ancient Egypt. I remember as a child collecting books on the subject, and throughly enjoying anything I could learn about their hieroglyphics, their fashion, their architecture, their customs, their traditions, their treatment of the dead. That love for the subject has most definitely stemmed into my adult life. In my countless visits to the Met, the Egyptian wing is always a must. Same with the Brooklyn museum. The Temple of Debod was one of the things I was most excited to see in Madrid. Learning that the Obelisk has been right in my city this whole time, came as something of a shock, and I knew I had to visit.
Funny enough, it’s a literal 5 minute walk from the Temple of Dendur in the Met. How could I have been ignorant of it for so many years? Regardless of that, I was happy to find out about it, and more than happy to go this weekend.
Unbeknownst to me, the Obelisk (Cleopatras’s Needle) is the oldest monument residing outdoors in all of New York City. Created for Heliopolis around 1450 BC, the twin monuments were stolen and moved to Alexandria in 18AD. In the late 1800s, the twin Obelisks were split when one went to reside in London, and the other right here in NYC.
Beneath the Obelisk is a time capsule, the man who orchestrated the purchase and delivery of the monument buried inside a US census, the Bible, a dictionary, the complete works of Shakespeare, a guide to Egypt, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and a small box who’s contents are unknown.
One really weird thing? There are several giant, bronze crabs that support the Obelisk. I didn't see anything giving information on this while in the park, so as soon as I got home I went right to my computer to do some research. Apparently the base was so worn, and the monument itself was so heavy, that it couldn't be erected without extra support when it got to New York after months of being transported. Crabs play a role in mythology, and are associated with the sun, so they were chosen to hold up the red granite, 69 foot tall, 200 ton Obelisk. Just another weird, amazing thing to add to the books about why I love my city.