Location: Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt Pharaoh: Sesostris I (reigned 1972-1928 B.C.) Height: 67 feet Weight: 120 tons Story: Dating to the Middle Kingdom (2050-1786 B.C.), this is the oldest
surviving giant obelisk. An inscription on it says, "The first occasion of the
Jubilee, he made [it] to be given life forever." A Jubilee was traditionally
given in the 30th year of a pharaoh's reign, so scholars believe Sesostris I
erected the obelisk in 1942 B.C. Once part of a pair, its companion was thought
to have toppled sometime in the 12th century A.D.
The first mention of these obelisks in the historical literature may come from
a chapter of Isaiah by St. Epheaim (fourth century A.D.), who wrote that in
Heliopolis "there are two great columns which excite admiration...On these
columns are depicted figures of the men and animals which were shown by their
priestly character to contain the mysteries of paganism." Yakut, an Arab
historian of the 13th century, wrote that locals called them Messalat
Far'un, or "Pharaoh's Packing Needles."