Archive for the ‘Central Park’ category

Cleopatra’s Needle (AKA “the Obelisk” in Central Park)

September 27, 2007

I haven’t been to Central Park for a month or more and got the itch to go back.  This time I actually had a plan.  It hurts to admit that.  I’ve wanted to go back to Cleopatra’s Needle and take some photos with my new camera and it meant I needed to make sure I went in the right entrance.  Here’s a tip:  it’s just south of the Metropolitan Museum.  Enter around 81st Street and walk straight.  You’ll see some bears (with the occasional child hanging on)…


Continue straight on by and ignore the first right turn.  Take the second right turn.  Life is good, you’re close.

Cleopatra’s Needle is somewhere around 3,600 years old.  And it looks pretty good for that kind of age.  Unfortunately, New York City is aging it faster.  Or, rather, the pollution and the rain and the temperature changes and the….are all ganging up on it.  Nevertheless, it’s a magnificent point of interest.

Here’s a view from just north of it.


Ain’t it photogenic?

A little closer it starts to really show both the good and the bad.  As you can see, one side’s in pretty good shape and the other is very weathered.


With a slightly different view, the weathering is very evident.


Okay, that’s enough of the negatives.  I love this obelisk.  It is very historic and the history of it being constructed thousands of years ago, being moved to Alexandria a thousand or more years later, and then to New York another couple of thousand years after that is just mind boggling.  I love to sit and stare at it and think about the original makers and how they couldn’t have begun to conceive their handiwork’s fate.

And, no matter how crowded Central Park is, there are few people here.  When I showed up on Sunday, there were about 10 people milling around, more than I’ve ever seen there.  But within two minutes they had wandered off, leaving just three of us.  A few minutes later a couple of others showed up.  Here’s a shot for scale.


You can notice a couple of things about the base from this.  First, at each corner near the ground is a plaque with a translation of the markings; sometimes with blanks where the archeologists couldn’t read it due to weathering.  Second, at the point of the actual obelisk meeting the new base, there are “crabs” holding the obelisk steady.  These crabs are modern, but are based on the stone ones in the Metropolitan Museum just across the way.  One at each corner holds the obelisk upright.

If you like history, and I do, the sight of Cleopatra’s Needle is quite inspiring and impressive.  If you want to know more about it, I’d suggest the Wikipedia article.