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A Mystery in ther Desert

December 9, 2015

Not long ago I posted a story about the possible discovery of the final resting place of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, who may have been the original occupant of King Tut’s tomb, and still might be entombed behind a sealed wall. Egyptian authorities are now 90 percent certain something is behind a wall in Tut’s tomb, but it remains to be seen if it’s the mummy of Tut’s famous stepmother. In two or three months we should know if we’re on the brink of the greatest archeological discovery of our age. Until then, I’m fascinated by another mystery of the ancient world.


Over the centuries, ancient obelisks have been taken as spoils of war or presented to various countries by Egypt’s rulers. They’re located in Paris, New York and Rome, in addition to many remaining throughout Egypt with a large number at the massive Karnak Temple complex, but an unfinished obelisk rests in a trench in a granite quarry near Aswan, and this unfinished obelisk dwarfs all others. It’s a third larger than any ancient Egyptian obelisk ever erected. If finished it would have measured approximately 137 feet tall and would have weighed nearly 1,200 tons. Speculation suggests this work was commissioned by Queen Hatshepsup (1504-1458 BC) to mark the sixteenth year of her reign. So why was it abandoned, left in a quarry unfinished?


Work continued on the gigantic obelisk for nearly ten years when a substantial crack was noticed, forcing the project to be abandoned. We don’t know why the expensive stone wasn’t cut down for other purposes, but the real mystery is trying to figure out how the ancient Egyptians intended on moving and raising such a colossal monument, had it been successfully completed. Granite is much heavier than the limestone used in the Pyramids at Giza, where blocks typically weigh only 2-30 tons, with some as heavy as 70 tons—much smaller than the 1200 ton estimate for the Unfinished Obelisk. The pyramid stones were transported on Nile barges to their final destination, but no barge would have been big enough to transport the Unfinished Obelisk. Yet those responsible for this monolith wouldn’t have spent time and money if they didn’t have a plan for moving and erecting it.






Today, most stone monuments are cut with lasers and assembled on the site, as was done when Abu Simbel, the gigantic monument to Rameses II, was moved to make room for the creation of Lake Nasser, but obelisks were sacred in Ancient Egypt requiring them to remain in one piece. Modern engineers have the ability to move heavy objects with motorized hydraulic devices, but these weren’t available to Ancient Egyptians.


It’s been speculated that space aliens created these huge works, or that the Egyptians had powers of levitation lost to us, but the most likely answer is that this ancient civilization possessed skills modern man has yet to master.


Arab Spring forced the cancellation of our trip to Egypt when the Middle East once again erupted in violence. The Unfinished Obelisk was one of the things Mrs. Chatterbox and I had most wanted to see. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make that trip one day. Until then, I find it reassuring that modern humans aren’t as special as we think we are.


It’s humbling to think we’ve yet to surpass the engineering skills of people who lived thousands of years ago.






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Those wacky Egyptians must have been good with their numbers. I doubt they would have started such a project without a good idea of how to move and set it up. Fascinating. R
By: Rick Watson on December 9, 2015
As crazy as this sounds, if Trump has his way, you may be prevented from visiting.
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 9, 2015
Fascinating story and one I was completely unaware of. Thanks for posting it.
By: Catalyst on December 9, 2015
They had to have a means for moving and lifting we've just not discovered. Although something that big would be difficult even by today's standards.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on December 9, 2015
We certainly aren't any smarter than people long ago, we just have more technology.
By: messymimi on December 9, 2015
I saw a documentary many years ago on how some engineers thought they were moved. Something about rollers and ALOT of slaves.
By: Linda on December 9, 2015
AMAZING--& I'd never heard of it before!!
By: fishducky on December 9, 2015
once again I am amazed at what I learn from you! Thanks!!! and have super day!
By: Kathe W. on December 9, 2015
I can't remember if I have ever mentioned this to you before, but if I haven't, the sci-fi movie Staargate (later made into the Stargate SG-1 telvison series and its subsequent spin-offs) was based upon the premise that the ancient Eqyptian pyramids were actually landing pads for the space ships of a race of symbiots, who took humans as enslaved hosts and were worshiped as gods by those not carrying symbiots because of their technological abilities. Even my wife really got into the movie and series. So, it might be something you-all could get into, too.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on December 9, 2015
Humbling, but also fascinating toi consider their skills, and our lack of them. So much we don't know. As for the mystery of what is behind the wall in Tut's tomb, what;s the odds on it being grain in storage?
By: Tom Cochrun on December 9, 2015
Ha - I was going to quip about grain storage, but Tom beat me to it! I've always said, if time travel were possible and we could only pick one time period to travel, it would be ancient Egypt for me.
By: Pixel Peeper on December 9, 2015
This shows that there other ways of doing things . As Europeans we tend to look down on achievements of other.
By: red on December 9, 2015
Are the obelisks phallic symbols? I ask because in Greece, phallic symbols are tributes to Hermes, or so I learned in my Greek mythology class. I'd like to travel. Do you think Mrs. C. would mind staying at home occasionally so I can take her place? I don't want to visit all the places you go, but when it's something I'd enjoy . . . why not? Suggest it to her to see what happens. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 9, 2015
I find it astonishing how they would have moved something so heavy without all the tools we have. I love watching documentaries on such things and find that we could learn from them even now. I hope you will get a chance to see Egypt. My friends went the year before everything started to implode and had a great time
By: Birgit on December 9, 2015
Interesting. So, dig a big trench around it, then slowly excavate underneath, starting at one end, until it slides into place. I dunno. Just an idea. I don't pretend to be as clever as the Egyptians.
By: tom sightings on December 10, 2015
we modern day humans have lost all sorts of skills. we are lazy and as soon as a machine is invented to do the work we happily let it. no problem as long as the machines work. I want to know how they planned to cut the obelisk from the ground. easy enough to cut and smooth the three sides exposed.
By: ellen abbott on December 10, 2015
The notion that aliens would have been responsible for moving this thing is insulting to a people who ruled quite a substantial bit of territory and civilized the early world. I'm quite sure they had a plan. Humans are quite ingenious when they're not killing each other.
By: Al Penwasser on December 10, 2015
Amazing! Thanks for writing about this as I had no idea it existed. Love the aerial view; you can really see the size of it and appreciate the challenge the ancient ones would have faced.
By: jenny_o on December 10, 2015
Fabulous history lesson. Love this stuff about ancient Egypt.
By: Bouncin Barb on December 10, 2015
Or maybe they were just doing it to humor her ego, figuring she would be dead before it was finished? Then they could build a steep set of stairs and charge foreigners to climb up and walk on it. ;)
By: Scott Park on December 10, 2015
I'd never heard of this. How amazing. I read a book about Stonehenge once and it's a miracle how those stones were transported with the animal hide ropes etc. that they had at that time, many miles, over rough terrain with no roads.
By: Jenny Woolf on December 10, 2015
Move those heavy stones? My son says the conspiracy theory is acoustic levitation. But he thinks it was a lot of manpower, and a lot of logs.
By: Val on December 10, 2015
I was fortunate enough to visit the unfinished obelisk in June this year - very impressive. The guide's theory was that the ancient Egyptians had developed modern day technology only for - somehow - it all to be forgotten with the passage of time. A mystery indeed.
By: Bryan Jones on December 11, 2015
By: cranky on December 13, 2015

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