Religion Past and Present

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(188 words)

[German Version]

Obelisk, a high, slender pillar found in Egypt from the time of the Old Kingdom (Gk ὀβελός/obelós, “pointed column,” actually “skewer”), mostly with a square base and a pyramid-shaped top, often gilded. Its cultic significance, linked with the sun god Re, comes from the fact that the first rays of the sun reached the top and illuminated it. Pairs of obelisks were often set up in the temple of the sun god; their sides and plinth were usually inscribed with hieroglyphs. In antiquity it was already a frequent occurrence for obelisks to be removed (e.g. by Alexander the Great to A…

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Wißmann, Hans, “Obelisk”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 16 July 2024 <>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004146662, 2006-2013

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