An pillar is a stone rectangular column with a tapered top creating a pyramidion, set on a base, erected to commemorate an individual or event and honor the gods. The old Egyptians developed the form at some point in the beforehand Dynastic duration (c. 3150-c. 2613 BCE) following their work in mud brick mastaba tombs and also prior come the building of the action Pyramid that Djoser (c. 2670 BCE). It is believed that the faster obelisks served as a type of training for functioning in stone on monumental projects which to be a necessary step toward pyramid building.

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The name "obelisk" is Greek because that "spit", as in a long pointed piece of wood normally used because that cooking, due to the fact that the Greek historian Herodotus was the first to write around them and so named them. The Egyptians dubbed them tekhenu which way "to pierce" as in "to pierce the sky". The earliest obelisks no much longer exist and also are only recognized through later engravings but appear to have been only about ten feet (3 metres) tall. With time they would reach heights of end 100 feet (30 metres). Although many cultures roughly the human being from the Assyrian come the Mesoamerican employed the pillar form, only ancient Egypt worked in monolithic stone, virtually always red granite. Each old Egyptian obelisk was carved from a single piece of stone which was then moved to that location and also raised ~ above a base. If archaeologists and scholars understand how these monuments were carved and transported, nobody knows exactly how they were raised; modern day efforts to replicate the increasing of an obelisk, using old Egyptian technology, have actually failed.


Symbolism of the Obelisk

The obelisks of ancient Egypt represented the benben, the primordial mound top top which the god Atum stood in ~ the development of the world. Together such, castle were linked with the benu bird, the Egyptian precursor to the Greek phoenix. According to part Egyptian myths the benu bird was the very first living biology whose cry awoke production and collection life in motion. The bird was linked to the morning star and also the rejuvenation of every day but was likewise the sign of the end of the world; in the same way the bird had cried to begin the an innovative cycle, she would certainly sound again come signal its completion.


The obelisks of ancient Egypt stood for the benben, the primordial mound top top which the god Atum stood in ~ the creation of the world.

The Egyptians believed a day would certainly come as soon as the gods would certainly die and also all would return to the power of primordial chaos. The benu bird would certainly not select this finish of that is own however would be given its cue by the sun god Ra who, in turn, would have actually been informed by the god Thoth, goalkeeper of the records of humans and gods. The benu bird was mainly linked, however, v Ra (later Amun and also Amun-Ra) and with light and life. Egyptologist Geraldine Pinch comments on this:


From the Pyramid messages onward, the benu bird to be closely linked with the creator sun god. In Heliopolis, the center of solar worship, the benu bird was stated to perch on the benben stone, a type of primitive obelisk, or in the branches of a sacred willow tree. As soon as Egyptian kings had reigned because that thirty years, lock asked the benu bird to renew their strength and also vitality (117).

While maintaining its association v the benu bird, the obelisk came to be increasingly connected with Ra and solar worship, specifically from the brand-new Kingdom (c. 1570-1069 BCE) onwards. Obelisks were constantly raised in bag in keeping with the Egyptian value of balance and also harmony; the was thought that the 2 on earth were reflect by 2 in the heavens. Egyptologist Richard H. Wilkinson writes:

The phenomenon of duality pervades Egyptian society and is in ~ the love of the Egyptian ide of the universe itself. But rather than focusing on the necessary differences in between the two components of a given pair, Egyptian thought might stress their complementary nature as a means of expressing the essential unity of existence through the alignment and also harmonization the opposites - simply as we today could use "men and women", "old and young", or "great and small" to mean "all" or "everyone" (129).

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The twin obelisks were raised in honor of a good king"s accomplishments (or, in the situation of Hatshepsut, a great queen), but also served to honor the gods or, much more often, a details god. In the period of the new Kingdom the pillar was believed to be inhabited by the soul of the god that was elevated for in the same method a god was assumed to actually live in his or she temple. Thutmose III (1458-1425 BCE) of the brand-new Kingdom denote the routine of giving ceremonies to obelisks in the same way that offerings were lugged to temples and also this practice continued through the Ptolemaic period (323-30 BCE), the last to preeminence Egypt before it was linked by Rome. The pharaohs of the new Kingdom erected an ext obelisks than any type of other in the belief that they would certainly live on through these monuments together offerings would proceed to be lugged to lock after your death.