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.
Dr. Hawass’ Blog is here.
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger