The Obelisk (Greek for “pointed instrument”) was created roughly 3,500 years ago in Egypt. To celebrate Pharaoh Thutmose III’s 30th year of reign, stonecutters carved two obelisks out of granite and installed them outside of the Temple of the Sun in the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis. Each one was formed from a single piece of quarried stone, to create a shaft that is 69 feet high and weighs approximately 200 tons. The obelisks rested on granite bases.

They stayed in place for about 1,500 years, until they were toppled and burned during an invasion by Persians in 525 B.C. For more than 500 years, they remained buried in sand until Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus discovered and transported them to Alexandria. They were erected in front of the Caesarium, a temple conceived by Cleopatra, which may explain how they individually came to be known as “Cleopatra’s Needles.” Limestone pedestals and bronze crabs were added to each corner.

The Egyptian government gave one of the obelisks to Britain, and it was raised in London in 1878. The other obelisk was announced as a gift to the United States in 1879.

Cleopatra’s Needle in New York City, Central Park