The Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities has become famous in recent years for his regular television appearances and tireless campaign to preserve his nation’s heritage. Dr. Zahi Hawass has gotten the Met to return stolen artifacts and severed ties with the Louvre until they coughed up some of their own ill-gotten gains.
Now the fedora-wearing Egyptologist has a new location in his sights–New York City. On his blog he says Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park has become “severely weathered”. He’s sent a letter to the president of the Central Park Conservancy and Mayor Bloomberg describing how some of the hieroglyphs had all but disappeared and that if they couldn’t take care of the obelisk, he’d “take the necessary steps” to bring it back to Egypt.
Dr. Hawass also posted photos showing the weathering the monument has suffered. With the city’s variable weather and acidic pollution, it’s not surprising it’s suffered damage. Manhattan news service DNAinfo, however, talked to Jonathan Kuhn, director of Arts & Antiquities for the Parks Department, who said the damage was done more than a century ago and that there’s no significant erosion happening now.
Considering the level of determination Dr. Hawass has shown in the past, expect to hear more about this story in the future.
(As a side note, “Cleopatra’s Needle” is misnamed. It was actually erected by the pharaoh Thutmose III around 1450 BC, centuries before Cleopatra was born. London and Paris have similar obelisks.)
[Photo courtesy user Ekem via Wikimedia Commons]