Heather, Hamish and Jacqui standing in front of the Unfinished Obelisk

The unfinished obelisk is the largest known ancient obelisk and is located in the northern region of the stone quarries of ancient Egypt in Aswan. Archaeologists claim the pharaoh known as Hatshepsut sanctioned its construction. It is nearly one third larger than any ancient Egyptian obelisk ever erected. If finished it would have measured around 42 m in height. Archeologists speculate that it was intended to complement the so-called Lateran Obelisk, which was originally at Karnak Temple in Luxor. Other archaeologists suggest that the pharaoh Hatshepsut ordered it to be built to celebrate her sixteenth year in power.

Unfinished Obelisk – with shaped top and flaws in the stone

The obelisk’s creators began to carve it directly out of bedrock, but cracks appeared in the granite and the project was abandoned. Originally it was thought that the stone had an undetected flaw but it is also possible that the quarrying process allowed the cracking to develop by releasing the stress. The bottom side of the obelisk is still attached to the bedrock. The unfinished obelisk offers unusual insights into ancient Egyptian stone-working techniques, with marks from workers’ tools still clearly visible as well as ocher-colored lines marking where they were working.

Also discovered were some rock carvings and remains that may correspond to the site where most of the famous obelisks were worked. All these quarries in Aswan and the unfinished objects are an open air museum and are officially protected by the Egyptian government as an archeological site.

Our experience

An early start this day – trying to fit a lot in before being scheduled to board our Nile River Cruise in the afternoon.

The area where the Unfinished Obelisk is located is very large with a large expansive area from the gate to the area where the quarry is located. From the side, the obelisk can be seen clearly – and a number of cracks in the granite can be easily seen. But more flaws in the stone can be seen when you get to the top of the stairs.

Once at the top of the stairs, the flaws can be seen and also additional cuts by the stonemasons in attempt to try and recover the obelisk. The stonemasons could recover the stone due to the faults hence it was left.

Walking around the top of the quarry, there were many other things to see including a more hieroglyphics cut into the granite.

Hieroglyphics on Granite in the Granite Quarry at Aswan

One of the big questions is how they would get a stone that size weighing many tons from Aswan to Luxor. But there again, who did they build the Pyramids?

A major source of income is from Tourism – hence there are some high-pressure tactics applied trying to sell their products. Most exits to many of the tourist attractions requires you to walk through these areas where goods are for sale. Something to be careful about.

For more information on the Unfinished Obelisk

For more information about Aswan

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