Egypt Demands Return of “Cleopatra’s Needle.”

Submitted by Mark M. Esposito, Guest Blogger

Dr. Zahi Hawass is none too happy with New York Mayor Bloomberg. The Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council on Antiquities has sent the Mayor a letter demanding the City preserve a 3500 year old obelisk known as “Cleopatra’s Needle”  or send it back. Since 1881, the red granite monument has stood in Central Park near the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is nearly 68 feet high.

According to Hawass, he has made several trips to New York to view the obelisk and has noticed deterioration of the hieroglyphs which adorn the sides. The ancient artifact actually comes from a time before Cleopatra during the rule of  Pharaoh Thutmose III. The obelisk is one half of a pair and its twin stands in Westminster in London.

In a letter to the Mayor and the agency responsible for its upkeep, the antiquarian said, “I am sure you are well aware of the obelisk of Thutmose III, referred to as “Cleopatra’s Needle,” that has resided in Central Park since 1880. 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. …  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.”

For its part New York says it’s not to blame. Jonathan Kuhn, director of Arts & Antiquities for the Parks Department, said the damage was done more than a century ago and that there’s no significant erosion happening now.

Before you dismiss Dr. Hawass as a mere relic loving crank, recall he has recently secured the return of hundreds of ancient Egyptian artifacts from the Met, the Louvre, and even the  Al Ahly Bank.  Egypt claims the items are on loan from its civilization to the world. The recipients claim ownership as both obelisks were presented as gifts by the ruler of Egypt. In either case, Dr. Hawass points up  an important  question about who truly “owns”  the history of current civilizations.

Source: Gadling

Dr.  Hawass’ Blog is here.

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

15 thoughts on “Egypt Demands Return of “Cleopatra’s Needle.””

  1. It’s not as though this is a particular point of interest in NYC since it’s kind of hard to find and it’s just an obelisk. It’s there, so…? It has always been in dreadful condition and nobody can tell me that the polluted air in NYC is not doing a number on this important artifact. I think it should be returned to Egypt as quickly as many be possible since it is part of Egypt’s patrimony, not ours, and it’s not being looked after properly.

  2. eniobob

    GOOD CATCH! it did not occur to how much my impression of Mr. Hawass fit that arrogant ass from NYC. At least Zahi has something besides himself he is fighting for.

  3. Great article Mespo. I agreee with rcampbell that this obelisk has to have been damaged further in the last century. Pretty weak argument by NYC.

  4. Keep up your good work Dr. Hawass … although the obelisk is called a “gift” there are those who would suggest it was a “bribe” given to the U S for remaining neutral during the upheaval that resulted in victory for Great Britain.

    For those who think it’s permissible to keep relics that belong to current civilizations may I suggest that if returning the obelisk is out of the question then perhaps we could loan Egypt that old, cracked Liberty Bell presently sitting in Philadelphia …

  5. Regardin’ such issues, I always rely upon the advice of my favorite Egyptologist, “Little Egypt” She always exhibits the finest points of Egyptology…

  6. Whether damage is currently occurring seems like it would very easy to demonstrate with pictures from the past 10 or 20 years.

  7. frank:

    Are you saying that Bloomberg has met his equal?

    “Mr. Hawass comes across as something of an egotistical, arrogant, attention-seeking blow hard” >:=)

  8. Frank,

    “We need to treat it better than booty taken in victory.”

    I agree. All booty is good booty. 🙂

  9. Mr. Hawass comes across as something of an egotistical, arrogant, attention-seeking blow hard but I wish him luck in his efforts to restore Egypt’s history. Europeans and Americans plundered billions of dollars of antiquities and treasures out of the rest of the world. Mostly at the point of a gun though occasionally with some scientific intent. We need to treat it better than booty taken in victory.

  10. “…the damage was done more than a century ago and that there’s no significant erosion happening now…”

    No additional significant erosion in spite of the fact that a century has passed and that NYC’s air quality could hardly be described as being less corrosive today than in 1900? Hmmmm.

  11. Bloomberg can’t keep the streets of New York clear of snow and Dr.Hawass expects him to maintain a statue? Good Luck

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