Is Something Really Buried Under Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park?

Obelisk in Central Park

Here’s an artist’s rendition of the obelisk being installed in the park. He put the Brooklyn Bridge, completed a few years earlier, in the background, though the bridge would not have been visible from the park when the obelisk was installed.

The Obelisk, nicknamed Cleopatra’s Needle, is the oldest man-made object in Central Park…by around four thousand years!

It is one of a pair that were commissioned for Heliopolis on the banks of the Nile in 1450 BC by an Egyptian pharaoh who wished to celebrate his 30 years of reign. The twin monuments were then moved to Alexandria in 18AD where they remained until one obelisk was moved to London in 1878. The second, erected two years later in Central Park, was offered by the Egyptian Khedive to America in exchange for funds to modernize his country.

As you can see from the picture to the right, moving the 69-foot, 220-ton granite monument from Egypt to New York was an arduous and delicate process. It took 112 days from the time the Obelisk first landed on the banks of the Hudson until it reached its future position in the park. Laborers inched the monument on parallel beams, aided by roll boxes and a pile-driver engine. Thousands turned out on January 22, 1881 to marvel as the obelisk was turned upright.

Obelisk in Central Park

The Obelisk as it appears today. I wonder if Pharaoh Thutmose III ever dreamed that his monument would end up in a park on the other side of the world?

To add some mystery to an already mysterious object, a well-known journalist named William Henry Hurlburt buried a time capsule beneath the monolith. In his box, he included an 1870 U.S. census, a Bible, a Webster’s Dictionary, the complete works of Shakespeare, a guide to Egypt, and a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence. Last but not least, another smaller box was placed in the capsule by the man who orchestrated the purchase and transportation of the Obelisk. He will probably be the only person to know its contents…at least until some archaeologists decide to excavate the remains of New York City some four thousand years from now!

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