Monday, March 31, 2014

What is a Memorial Obelisk?

Obelisks are defined as tapered, four-sided pillars. Originally erected in pairs at the entrances to ancient Egyptian temples, they were carved from a single piece of stone, usually granite, and embellished with hieroglyphics. They had wide rectangular bases with pyramidal tops, and were often more than 100 ft tall!

These were originally called tekhenu by the Ancient Egyptians. The Greeks who saw them used the term obeliskos to describe them, and this word passed into Latin and then into English. Ancient obelisks were often monolithic, whereas most modern obelisks are made of several stones and can even contain interior spaces.

A monolith is a geological feature consisting of a single massive stone or rock placed as, or within, a monument or building. In architecture, the term may be used in the contexts of rock-cut architecture that remains attached to solid rock or for exceptionally large stones such as obelisks, that may have been moved a considerable distance after quarrying.

A number of ancient Egyptian obelisks are known to still survive. Many of these obelisks are now dispersed around the world, and fewer than half of them remain in Egypt; with Rome now considered the obelisk capital of the world. The most well-known Roman obelisk is the 82 ft, 331-ton obelisk at Saint Peter's Square in Rome. This particular obelisk had stood since AD 37 on its site next to St Peter's Basilica.

The obelisk symbolized the sun god Ra, and was said to have been a petrified ray of the Aten or sundisk. It was also thought that this god existed within the structure. Obelisk monuments are also known from the Assyrian civilization, where they were erected as public monuments that commemorated events and achievements. Today they are utilized throughout cemeteries to memorialize and honor the deceased. The most popular granite colors are gray and black; sandblasted designs and epitaphs are used to decorate the gray obelisks, while laser etching works great for black.

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