Condition Report: Cleopatra’s Needle

10 Jan

An Egyptian Official is threatening to take back an obelisk that his country gifted the United States nearly 130 years ago if New York doesn’t start taking better care of it. Affectionately known as Cleopatra’s Needle, the 3500 year old artifact was given to America to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. The structure was installed in Central Park in 1881.

According to Time Magazine, the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg and the Central Park Conservancy saying that the obelisk has not been adequately maintained.

Hawass stated:

I am glad that this monument has become such an integral part of New York City, but I am dismayed at the lack of care and attention that it has been given. Recent photographs that I have received show the severe damage that has been done to the obelisk, particularly to the hieroglyphic text, which in places has been completely worn away. I have a duty to protect all Egyptian monuments whether they are inside or outside of Egypt. If the Central Park Conservancy and the City of New York cannot properly care for this obelisk, I will take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home and save it from ruin.

The New York Times says that the city contends that the obelisk is just fine.

The paper reports:

In a statement, Jonathan Kuhn, the director of art and antiquities for the Parks and Recreation Department, cited a Metropolitan Museum of Art study from the 1980s that concluded that the granite was “largely inert” and that the damage to the inscriptions took place before the 20th century. Mr. Kuhn said the city was monitoring the obelisk’s condition and there was “no evidence at this point of any significant ongoing erosion.”

Do you think Egypt has a case? Should New York be taking steps to better protect the obelisk?

Related Reading:

The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation outlines the history of the Obelisk

Click here to read a translation of the hieroglyphs on the New York and London Obelisks

Did you know that the city of Berlin gave the city of San Antonio a bronze bear statue? See the bear and more fun international presents on this list of gifts from other countries.




One Response to “Condition Report: Cleopatra’s Needle”


  1. Cleopatra’s Needle: Egyptian concern about the NYC obelisk | Archaeology & Conservation Services - January 11, 2011

    […] also: Condition Report: Cleopatra’s Needle at […]

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