Location: 81st Street, east side
Artist/Designer: Unknown Egyptians during the reign of Pharaoh Thutmosis III (c. 1443 BC)
Materials: Aswan (Syene) pink granite, white limestone, bronze
Funding: Gift from the khedive of Egypt. The financier for the relocation to New York was William Henry Vanderbilt.
Throughout its roughly 3500-year history, the obelisk now in Central Park has been a symbol of power and prestige. The obelisk and its twin were created under orders of an Egyptian pharaoh as testament to his prowess as a warrior king; they also paid homage to the god Amon-Ra.
After ancient Egypt was conquered by the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus, he had these obelisks moved from their original site at Heliopolis (near present-day Cairo) to Alexandria, where they stood before a temple honoring Julius Caesar. The Romans made the bronze crabs to hold the granite obelisks in place on the newly created limestone steps.
Nearly 2000 years later, the khedive (ruler) of Egypt gave our obelisk to the US in hopes of expanding trade between the two countries. To get the obelisk to New York, a steamship was specially outfitted so that the 220-ton, 69-foot shaft could slide into the hold. The voyage across the Atlantic took 40 days, but it took 112 days to maneuver the obelisk through Manhattan to its present location in Central Park.
To read about the obelisk and how it came here, download this free e-book published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Click on the photo to enlarge