Cleopatra's Needle

by Oisin Joyce 93 months ago
One of the two faux Egyptian sphinxes, designed by George Vulliamy, guarding the base of the Needle

My favorite monument in the whole of London town has to be Cleopatra’s Needle, near Embankment tube station. An obelisk constituted by a singular mass of stone, standing 68 foot tall and weighing in at over 200 tons; the sheer size of this primeval, red granite pillar is striking enough to make anyone stop and marvel about its original sculptors.

The creative hands and minds responsible for this feat, namely, skilled master masons from the ancient civilization of Egypt, have endeavored to inspire awe in spectators of the monument throughout numerous locations and across several millennia. The needle is one of a pair believed to have been erected by order of the Pharaoh Thutmose III, around 1450 BC, in the ancient city of Heliopolis.

An entire fifteen centuries later, when Egypt was largely under the rule of the Roman Empire, these obelisks were transported to the city of Alexandria and placed in a temple called the Caesareum (which was built in honor of the Emperor Julius Caesar and the General Mark Anthony).

For some reason they were toppled shortly after their assembly at this site, and subsequently lay buried deep under protective layers of sand for nearly 2000 years, until their rediscovery in the 19th century when both specimens were offered as gifts by the Viceroy of Egypt to the cities of London and New York.

The sister obelisk to Cleopatra’s Needle in London is situated in New York’s Central Park and, interestingly enough, both monuments share the same name.

Personally, I am altogether captivated by the inconsistencies inherent within our understanding of the technical knowledge exhibited by the ancient Egyptian civilization. This is evident alone through their remarkable feats of structural design and engineering.

It is held that the Great Pyramid of Giza was constructed with an apparent understanding of advanced geometry, because the structure itself represents both Pi and the golden number (otherwise known as the Fibonacci sequence) on a repeated basis throughout the arrangement of its exterior dimensions. Even more enthralling are the facts that the entire 42 acre site was built to within half an inch off perfectly square and aligns with true north to within less than a twentieth of a degree.

What I really appreciate about Cleopatra’s Needle is its potential capacity to spur the power of one's imagination, and fuel a cerebral journey across great distances in time and space to the sands of ancient Egypt. So if you would ever like to experience a little piece of the ancient world, head straight for the heart of London and make a beeline for its ancient obelisk by the bank of the River Thames.