The Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan, Egypt is an archaeological mystery that has captivated the attention of historians and archaeologists for centuries. This enigmatic structure was discovered in the late 19th century and stands 97 feet tall, with only the bottom portion of the obelisk intact.
It is believed to have been carved out of a single piece of granite and would have been the largest obelisk ever created in antiquity. Despite its unfinished state, it is clear that the obelisk was intended to be an impressive and imposing monument.
Scholars have been unable to agree upon who created the obelisk, what its purpose was, and why it was left incomplete. However, further research and analysis have begun to uncover some of the secrets of the Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan, Egypt.
Historical Background of the Unfinished Obelisk
The obelisk in Aswan is the lone survivor of a group of three obelisks that once stood in the Temple of Isis. Carved from red granite and erected in the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC), this temple was dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis (who was also the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus).
The Temple of Isis was constructed on an island in the Nile River near what is now the city of Aswan, Egypt. It was built during the reign of Thutmose III and remained in use for about 2,000 years until the 4th century AD. The three obelisks were erected during the reign, and reign of Thutmose III and his son, Amenhotep II. The obelisks were carved from single blocks of granite and weighed approximately 400 tons each.
They were erected in front of the Temple, with one between the other two. The remaining obelisks each stood over 70 feet tall and would have been visible from the river.
The Purpose of the Unfinished Obelisk
Roughly translated, the hieroglyphs on the obelisk describe the construction of the Temple of Isis and Thutmose III’s dedication of the obelisks. However, the obelisk clearly was not completed, nor was it ever finished. Scholars have tried to come up with reasonable explanations for why the obelisk was left incomplete. Some scholars assume that the obelisk was meant to be a pair with the other two obelisks and thus was never meant to be finished. Some historians believe the obelisk was meant to be a single structure with two smaller pillars added to the sides and another smaller column on top. Scholars also believe it is possible that the obelisk was meant to be dedicated to a different pharaoh.
Potential Reasons for its Incompletion
The Temple of Isis was constructed during a time of great political upheaval in Egypt. Amenhotep II, who was the last pharaoh to rule during the New Kingdom, died when he was only about 16 years old. Thutmose III became regent for his son and soon after became pharaoh himself.
Thutmose III ruled for 33 years and oversaw major social and political changes in Egypt. Many historians believe that the Temple of Isis and the three obelisks were constructed during this period. This would mean that the obelisks were carved out of the single blocks of granite at the same time. The Temple of Isis was left unfinished after Thutmose III’s death and was neither completed nor used by his successors.
It is possible that the obelisks were never finished because of a shortage of funds or a shortage of workers. It also may have been a result of a shift in religious practices. Thutmose III dedicated the Temple of Isis to the goddess Isis, but Thutmose IV (who was the next pharaoh) was a devotee of the god Amun.
It was previously believed that the unfinished obelisk had been left unfinished due to a technical error in the carving process. However, recent discoveries suggest that the unfinished obelisk may have been carved out of a single block of granite because it was meant to be a double-sided monument.
A double-sided obelisk would have required a large amount of space to be carved. Statues of Thutmose III were discovered in the quarry next to the Temple of Isis and were carved out of the same type of granite used for the obelisk. The unfinished obelisk seems to have been carved out of a single block of granite because it was meant to be carved from both sides.
Theories on Who Built the Obelisk
Thutmose III is the most likely candidate for the builder of the Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan, Egypt because he was the last pharaoh to rule during the New Kingdom (during which the Temple of Isis was constructed). He was a prolific builder and dedicated temples to the goddess Isis in at least three different cities.
He likely commissioned the construction of the Temple of Isis and the three obelisks in honor of his dead wife. It is possible that the Temple of Isis and the obelisks were meant to be a final resting place for Thutmose III’s wife. However, Thutmose III died before the Temple was completed, and his son, Amenhotep II, died before the obelisks were finished. It is possible that the Temple and the obelisks were left unfinished because of a shortage of funds or a shortage of workers. It is also possible that the Temple of Isis and the obelisks were left unfinished due to a shift in religious practices.
Theories Surrounding the Unfinished Obelisk
Some scholars believe that the Temple of Isis and the obelisks were meant to be a funerary monument for Thutmose III’s wife. This would make sense because the Temple was dedicated to the goddess Isis, who was also the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus. The goddess Isis is often depicted as a mother figure in Egyptian culture. It is also possible that the Temple and the obelisks were meant to become a funerary monument for Thutmose III.
He was a very powerful and influential pharaoh who served as regent for his son and became pharaoh himself. It is possible that he intended for the obelisks to be a final resting place for himself. However, he died before the Temple was completed, and his son died before the obelisks were finished.
Evidence Suggesting the Obelisk was Built for Queen Hatshepsut
Some scholars believe that the Temple of Isis and the obelisks were dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut (the wife of Thutmose II, who ruled during the New Kingdom). There is some evidence to suggest that the Temple of Isis was dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut. To begin with, the Temple originally had the same dedication as the Temple of Isis and was dedicated to the goddess Isis. However, the inscriptions were later changed to dedicate the Temple to the goddess Hathor. Hathor was a different Egyptian goddess and represented fecundity, sexuality, and joyfulness. It is also known that Thutmose III built many temples dedicated to Hathor.
Therefore, it is possible that the Temple of Isis was initially dedicated to the goddess Hathor, but was later dedicated to the goddess Isis after Thutmose III built his own temples to the goddess Hathor. If the Temple of Isis and the obelisks were dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut, it would explain why they were left unfinished. It is possible that they were intended to be a funerary monument for the queen, but she died before they were finished.
Archaeological Findings of the Aswan Quarry
One of the most important discoveries made at the Aswan Quarry was the partial remains of a granite block that was carved out, but never removed from the quarry. This unfinished granite block was later discovered to be the same type of granite used to carve the obelisks at the Temple of Isis.
It is possible that the construction of the Temple of Isis and the three obelisks was a joint effort between Thutmose III and Queen Hatshepsut. It is also possible that the Temple of Isis and the obelisks were dedicated to both Thutmose III and Queen Hatshepsut. The unfinished block found in the quarry may have been intended for the unfinished obelisk, but it was later abandoned.
Tours Include a Visit To Unfinished Obelisk:
|Egypt 12 Days : The Ultimate Itinerary
|12 Days – 11 Nights
|10 Days Cairo & Nile Cruise and Hurghada Trip
|10 Days – 9 Nights
|4 Days Cairo and Aswan Tour Package
|4 Days – 3 Nights
|5 Days Cairo, Aswan and Abu Simbel Tour Package
|5 Days – 4 Nights
|Aswan Sightseeing – One Day Tour
|1 Day – 10 Hours
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