The Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan

Colored granite, sandstone, syenite, alabaster and ochre were mined and transported during the flood down the Nile to the royal cities in the north. The obelisks that  can be admired now in Rome, Istanbul, Paris, London and New York were hewn from Aswan granite.

An unfinished obelisk rests in an ancient granite quarry south of Aswan. The material from which it was partially carved, Aswan pink granite, was valued by the Egyptians for its durability. If the obelisk was completed, it would be over 41 meters high. Unfortunately, as a result of a flaw in the deposit that caused the fracture, the work was stopped. Three sides are finished, but the underside is still stuck to the bedrock.

The obelisks were broken out and created in the quarries where the stone was excavated, quite unlike the stone blocks that were used to build the temples and pyramids. It was in the quarry where the obelisks were given their final shape.

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Egyptians created buildings without modern machines and advanced technologies. They relied on simple solutions and the strength of their own hands. They used basic tools (metal chisels and wooden mallets) to forge large blocks of rock like obelisks. They were also heavy spheres made of dolerite (very hard igneous rock). They rubbed the granite along the designated lines, creating depressions in the softer rock.

However, the method of putting obelisks up has not survived to this day. It is thought that an embankment of sand was made, onto which an obelisk was pulled up a high ramp. As the sand was removed, the stone pillar slowly sank into the pit and was then brought to a vertical position using cable lifts.

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