Home / Funny / Viral / Unfinished Obelisk Displays The Incredible Engineering Of Ancient Egypt 3500 Years Ago


An unfinished obelisk in Aswan, Egypt, lies like a sleeping giant on a bed of granite, offering a startling insight into the construction of these monolithic monuments. When completed, it will be approximately 42 meters (137 feet) tall and  weigh approximately 1,200 tons. Pharaoh Hatshepsut is believed to have commissioned this work during the 18th Dynasty, over 3,500 years ago. 

What is an obelisk? These four-sided tapering monuments of his were called Tequenu by the ancient Egyptians, but today they are known as obelisks, derived from the Greek word obelisk. It is usually placed at the entrance of a temple and is a hallmark of ancient Egyptian ingenuity and engineering. More than half of the  ancient obelisks beloved by successive civilisations are actually  outside of Egypt and were especially prized by the Romans. In fact, 13 are  in Italy.

So what happened to the Aswan obelisk that left footprints in the rock? Perhaps they were a little greedy with their skills as it would have been 1/3 larger than any previously erected obelisk once the work was complete. Instead, a huge crack appeared when it was  freed from the rock, leaving it  abandoned. Today it functions as an open-air museum that gives an insight into the construction methods of ancient Egypt. 

 Carving  monuments directly into the rock was a common technique, and stonemasons used stone balls  to smooth out  imperfections until the surface was smooth. There are still samples of these dolerite balls, for example in Aswan. Harder than granite, dolerite will not crack or fracture after being repeatedly struck against a stone surface.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Unfinished Obelisk is that we can see  how they would have freed the huge structure from the rock if it hadn't cracked. Sounds incredible, but the answer was wet wood. Workers carved small indentations in the stone, creating a line resembling a perforated sheet of paper.

The slots were filled with sun-dried wooden wedges. The wedges were then repeatedly soaked in water and believe it or not, the expansion of this tree would cause the carved stone to burst from its nest.

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