Back in January there was a bit of drama over the 3,500-year-old Egyptian obelisk residing in Central Park, Cleopatra’s Needle, which was given to the U.S. by Egypt to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal. The minister of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, claimed that the obelisk was being slowly destroyed by life in New York (much like the rest of us) and that if we couldn’t treat it properly, well, perhaps they would have to bring it back to Egypt. New York City mostly denied that the obelisk had suffered more than the usual growing pains — after all, it was built back in 1500 B.C. and has been living outside in New York City since the 1880s — what does one expect? This is no spring obelisk!
Now the Department of Parks and Recreation is making things official and conducting a “weathering study,” reports the New York Times, to see how the obelisk is holding up, and who makes the best parent of an obelisk — New York City or Egypt. It’s a modern-day antiquity-based Kramer v. Kramer.
Keep in mind, as the Times reports, “the obelisk…has already endured an assault involving flaming camel dung, 500 years of lying on its side in saltwater, and a destructive 1885 scraping at the hands of New York City parks workers.” Given all that, the folks in New York studying the obelisk seem to think that it’s really no worse for wear.
Keep in mind, also: He who moves an obelisk probably deserves to keep it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 6, 2011