Cleopatra’s Needle is located at the top of Greywacke Knoll in New York’s Central Park. It is located by the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, which has an excellent Egyptian collection.
The needle’s twin is located in London at the Victoria Embankment by the Thames. London’s needle was given to the British in 1819, but was not moved until Sir William Wilson provided a generous transportation donation. After a difficult sea voyage in which six sailors lost their lives, the London needle was erected in 1870 with two sphinxes by it.
There is also an Egyptian obelisk in Paris, erected in 1833 at Place de la Concorde. The cap on it was missing, so the French replaced it with a gold cap. it is known as the Luxor Obelisk.
The name Cleopatra’s Needle does not contain historical truth. The needle was actually constructed at Heliopolis about 1450 BC under Thutmose III’s reign. In 12 BC the Romans under Augustus Caesar moved the obelisk to Alexandria.
There the lower corners were supported with stone sea crabs. Two of these were stolen, but the other two can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. The 68 foot stone was carved from red granite and weighs over 200 tons. The hieroglyphic inscriptions on the stone were added later.
New York History
Stories vary on how New York was able to get this obelisk. Some say it was offered by the Egyptian government to help promote trade after the construction of the Suez Canal. Others say that William Vanderbilt helped initiate New York City receiving the stone. He did pay $100,000 toward transportation costs.
The task of transporting the stone to New York was given to Henry Honychurch Gorringe, a former United States Navy lieutenant colonel. The ship carrying it arrived at Staten Island in July 1880. The stone was then floated up the Hudson River and unloaded at the 51st street dock. Thirty-two horses then slowly pulled the obelisk toward Central Park. The stone was finally erected at its current site on January 22, 1881.
Rising high into the sky at Greywacke Knoll, Cleopatra’s Needle is an impressive site that should be part of a New York tour. Also, to provide a more extensive tour into Egyptian art and culture, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art is steps away.