Lying like a sleeping giant in a bed of granite in the northern region of the stone quarries of ancient Aswan in Egypt, is the largest known ancient obelisk found till date. With an estimated weight of around 1,200 tons, it would have measured about 137 feet (42 meters) if completed. Even today, there are very few modern cranes that could move such a massive object and it is really difficult to imagine, how exactly the ancient Egyptians did planned to transport and erect it. It is considered by the scholars that, probably more than 3,000 years ago, it was commissioned by the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut, during the 18th dynasty.
The word ‘obelisk’ is originated from the Greek word ‘Obeliskos’, which is derived from Obelos, meaning ‘needle’. They are four-sided, tapered monuments, which the Ancient Egyptians called as Tekhenu. They regarded the obelisks as the symbols of the sun god Ra and placed them reverently in pairs at the entrance to their temples. An obelisk was also regarded in the occult as a phallic symbol and when it is erected in a circle, it supposedly represents the act of sex. However, though the Vatican obelisk is erected within a circle, the circle represents a sun dial.
Unfortunately, Egypt has had a number of obelisks removed from the country, many of which were taken out in the 19th and early 20th centuries, mostly as gifts by Egyptian rulers, or taken ‘legally’, with the blessing of local authorities who were likely bribed to finalize a deal, while others were taken prior to the comprehensive antiquities laws. In fact, many of the Roman Emperors were fascinated by the Egypt obelisks and plundered them as the trophies of their conquests of the distant land of the Nile.
It started in the year 10 AD, when Augustus Caesar brought the Flaminio Obelisk from Heliopolis to Rome. Today, outside Egypt, the city of Rome alone has the most obelisks in the world. However, the best known of all the obelisks in Rome, is the Vatican Obelisk, standing 25m tall on the Piazza de San Pedro, which was brought to Rome by the infamous Emperor Caligula.
Nevertheless, the gigantic unfinished obelisk of Aswan is said to be about one third larger than any other ancient Egyptian obelisk ever erected. Its huge size made it remarkable and different from the others of the same kind. Though it was intended to be erected as an obelisk, It is lying exactly in the same place where it was once semi-carved from the solid bedrock. It is estimated by the scholars that, perhaps the project was abandoned, since a huge crack appeared in the granite, during the process of removing the gigantic block of stone from its mother bedrock. Since the cracked stone block had no other usable value, it was left abandoned. However, the bottom side of the unfinished obelisk is still attached to the bedrock and the site has become an open-air museum for the tourists.