added by archaeologs
Ancient Egyptian upright vertical shaft, generally of stone or wood, tapering gradually from top to bottom and surmounted by a pyramidion (miniature pyramid). Obelisks were first erected as part of the worship of the sun-god, with the pyramidion representing the sacred benbenstone (perhaps originally a symbol of the primeval mound of creation). In later periods pairs of obelisks were placed in front of the entrances to tombs and temples, as at Karnak and Luxor. An unfinished granite obelisk, probably dating to the 18th dynasty (c.1450 BC), is still in situ at the Aswan quarries.
E. Iversen: Obelisks in exile (Copenhagen, 1972); L. Habachi: The obelisks of Egypt (London, 1978); R. Hayward: Cleopatra’s needles (Buxton, 1978).
Ancient Egyptian monolithic monument, consisting of a stone pillar with tapering square section and a pyramid top (pyramidion; Egyptian benbenet). They were erected for religious or monumental purposes and frequently bear carved inscriptions in hieroglyphs. Old Kingdom examples were squat and closely related to the pyramids, both being solar symbols. They were set up in pairs outside the entrances to some Old Kingdom tombs, and outside temples; a single obelisk in east Karnak was the object of a cult. Later ones, such as Cleopatra's Needle, one of a pair erected by Thothmes III at Heliopolis, were much more slender. They were derived ultimately from the ancient benben stone in the temple of the sun-god at Heliopolis. This stone was believed to be that on which the rays of the rising sun first fell, sacred at least by 1st Dynasty (3100-2890 BC). Obelisks were usually cut from hard stone, particularly red granite from Aswan. The largest surviving examples (30 m high, 450 tons) were products of the New Kingdom. The earliest surviving obelisk dates from the reign of Sesostris I (1918-1875 BC) and stands at Heliopolis, where once stood a temple to Re.
An Egyptian monument in the form of a monolith of pyramidal form. By analogy the term is applied to any small pyramid which is high in comparison with its breadth. Egyptian obelisks were generally monoliths of colossal proportions, such as the so-called Cleopatra's Needle, which stands on the Embankment in London. In some modern buildings obelisks which, however, are not monolithic are employed either as finials or as lamps.