Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Most Underrated Wonder of the Ancient World - Obelisks

My daughter and me under Cleopatra's Needle at the Met in New York

  1. Twenty Eight Egyptian obelisks remain standing today.
  2. They are built from a single piece of rock.
  3. The Egyptians did not have iron tools, so it is thought they pounded the granite with heavy dolerate rocks - one of the few things harder than granite.
  4. An army of workers would have had to labor "an infinity of hours" to create one. If a crack were found in the rock during work, the monolith would be abandoned and work started on another site.
  5. Obelisks could be 100 feet tall and weigh 400 tons.
  6. Moving them was tricky, because the granite would crack easily if not properly supported. Stone is great in compression, but weak in tension.
  7. In 37 AD Gaius Caligula ordered an Egyptian obelisk that was already 1800 years old to be moved to Rome. It was 25 meters tall with a base of 8 meters and weighed one million pounds and made of pink granite. It remained standing in Rome for 1500 years.
  8. The end of the Middle Ages.
    The pope ordered the obelisk moved to the center of St. Peter's square. On September 10, 1586 the obelisk was moved by 907 men, 75 horses and 40 cranes.

    No obelisk had been moved for over a thousand years, and the people of 1586 thought they had at last equalled their Roman ancestors . The fact that they had moved the obelisk only a few hundred meters, instead of from across the Mediterranean did not matter - a new age of technology and engineering was dawning. Some historians mark this engineering marvel as the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance.

    As it looks now: