Luxor Temple Obelisks

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Two 80 foot (25m) pink granite obelisk built by Ramesses once stood before the gateway but today only one remains the other stands in the Place De La Concorde in Paris. Four sacred baboons are carved on the pedestal and the names of Ramesses appear on each side of the obelisks.

The granite used to make obelisks was quarried in southern Egypt near the ancient city of Swenett (the modern town of Aswan). In ancient times Swentet was famous for its stone quarries, especially the red, grey and black granite which was used to make the colossal statues and monolithic shrines found throughout Egypt.

The obelisks known as Cleopatra’s Needles which now stand in London, Paris and New York came from Swenett. (the London and New York obelisks belong to Thutmose III).

Unfinished obelisk at Aswan

Unfinished obelisk at Aswan

Thes ancient quarries are still visible in the rock today and are about four miles (6.4 km) in length. The quarrymen’s tools have been found together with numerous inscriptions describing various projects and how the work was performed. There is also an unfinished obelisk still partly embedded in the rock, which would have been the largest obelisk of all time had it been successfully erected. It is 137 feet (42 m) in length and estimated to weigh nearly 1,200 tons (about 1,200,000.00 kilograms). Fortunately for us, it cracked in several places and was never detached from the rock, providing an insight into the methods employed in making it. The marks from worker’s tools are still visible as well as the ochre coloured marker lines.

How to Make an Obelisk

To make an obelisk the architect needed to select a fault-free site and mark out the obelisk shape. It was then freed from the rock by large numbers of men hammering the granite with an even harder stone called dolerite. This was an arduous operation and must have taken many months of continuous work.

Once released from the surrounding rock, the obelisk was hauled to the river, probably on rollers. A canal was dug and the obelisk was supported on timber beams above the water. A barge filled with heavy stones was floated into position under it and when the stones were removed, the barge rose up, lifting the obelisk. The barge was then towed down river to the building site.

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