Standing in a quiet section of Central Park is the oldest manmade object in New York City, Cleopatra's Needle. This Ancient Egyptian obelisk, whose twin stands in London by the River Thames, was gifted to the USA by the Khedive of Egypt in 1877 and subsequently erected in Central Park in 1881. Pharaoh Thutmosis III would never have imagined that the obelisks he created for Heliopolis in 1450 BC would be standing some thousands of kilometres away, some thousands of years later, in two different continents. Neither did Ramses the Great who added the Hieroglyphic inscriptions 200 years later, nor did the Romans who moved the obelisk in 12 BC from Heliopolis to Alexandria to decorate a temple built by Cleopatra for her beloved Marc Antony (Perhaps this is why the obelisks got nicknamed "Cleopatra's Needles").
On a small hill, just behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is an authentic obelisk secured from the Egyptian Khedive in 1887. This heavily eroded and poorly displayed stone is actually unrelated to Cleopatra VII as it is one of a pair of obelisks, the other located in London, first commissioned by Thutmosis III (1479-1425 BC) and then nearly 300 years later, further inscribed by Ramesses II the Great (1279-1213 BC). Thus, the obelisk is nearly a thousand years older than the informal NYC name suggests. Transportation and erection of the obelisk in the 1880's was a major engineering feat of the time. In 2010, Dr. Zahi Hawass, the famed Egyptian antiquities director, sent an open letter to the president of the Central Park Conservancy and the Mayor of New York City insisting on improved conservation efforts. So far, nothing has been done to canopy this precious stone from the weather and pollution of NYC. But, it's worth visiting nevertheless, especially if you've never visited the better preserved art of ancient Egypt.
This authentic Egyptian obelisk, built in 1600 B.C.E., was given to New York in 1881 when a similar one was set up in London on the embankment of the Thames. Cecil B. DeMille paid for the 4 plaques on the base which translate the hieroglyphics.
“My honor was not yielded, but conquered merely.”
— Cleopatra (68 BC-30 BC)
Cleopatra’s Needle is an obelisk. It was unveiled in 1881 in New York’s Central Park. And is located just behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on Fifth Avenue and 83 Street. Although named for the famous Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, it has nothing to do with her.
Originally it was one of a pair of obelisks created for the Temple of the Sun at Heliopolis in 1450 BC on the order of Thutmose III. It is carved with Egyptian hieroglyphics, added in 1250 BC, that commemorate the military victories of Ramesses II. During the rein of Augustus Caesar in 12 BC, the Romans moved both obelisks to the entrance of Caesareum — a temple built by Cleopatra in honor of her lover Mark Antony — at Alexandria.
When the Suez Canal opened in 1869, Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt, gave one obelisk to the United States, hoping to establish trade relations with the U.S. William H. Vanderbilt, head of the New York Central Railroad, gave more than $100,000 to finance the project of bringing the obelisk to the U.S.A. It took more than 10 years to move the 180-ton, red granite obelisk from Alexandria to New York City under the direction of Henry Gorringe, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy.
When it arrived in New York in July of 1880 32 horses, hitched in 16 pairs, were required to drag the obelisk’s 50-ton pedestal through the streets of the city. A special railroad track was used to transport the obelisk from the banks of the Hudson River to Central Park’s Greywacke Knoll.
A landscaped plaza, complete with benches, surrounds Cleopatra’s Needle; it is a perfect spot to take in the 68-foot tall monument. In the spring the plaza is abloom with Saucer Magnolias and crabapples.
The Obelisk is situated adjacent the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Greywacke Knoll and is the oldest and least-anticipated structure in the park. This pink granite needle is 70 feet high and weighs 244 tons. It was erected at the entrance to the temple of the sun in the city of Heliopolis, approximately 1500 BC and moved to Alexandria in 12 BC by Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. A tribute to Egyptian king Thutmosis III, it actually has no relation to Cleopatra at all other than being placed at her site of residence some years after her death.
In 1879 it was shipped to the US by the Egyptian king as a gift ( bribe ) to stimulate trade between the two countries following the opening of the Suez canal. A second was gifted to the United Kingdom. (alternate history - stolen by railroad magnate William H. Vanderbilt). Transport took over a year for this massive structure, four months just to get from the East River to the park, and at a cost of over $100,000 paid for by Vanderbilt. Its current site is surrounded by benches and large numbers of specimen trees allowing one to read the translation of the hieroglyphics on tablets donated by film maker Cecil B. DeMille.
As in London, Paris and Rome, the oldest thing standing in New York City is not native but rather a treasure from Egypt. Situated directly behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art and thus somewhat neglected, this ancient obelisk occupies a small pavilion of sorts, offering its ancient runes to a populace more distracted with frisbee, trysts and relaxation. Now just one of hundreds of sculptures, stands or mementos in Central Park, the obelisk has withstood the ravages of weather and man since the 16 century BC.
Cleopatra's Needle is an Egyptian monument (obelisk) located in Central Park.
It was presented to America by Egypt, and was set up in Central Park in 1881.
It is made from red granite and was originally erected at Heliopolis (c.1475 B.C.)
I especially wanted to see it as I am interested in Egyptian monuments, and it seemed so out of place in Central Park!!