Ancient Obelisk Fragment Uncovered in Egypt Is Largest Ever

Indentations at the top of the obelisk indicate that it was covered in copper or gold to make it reflect the sun’s rays. Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Archaeologists working at the Saqqara necropolis, a large burial ground south of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, have recovered the tip of an obelisk more than 4,300 years old; it's one of the largest fragments from an ancient stone monument ever found.

The Swiss-French mission, headed by professor Phillippe Collombert, uncovered the upper part of the monument, built in 2,350 B.C. in the Old Kingdom era during the reign of Ankhnespepy II.

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According to a statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, the piece of the recovered obelisk, carved in red granite, was some eight feet in length. Collombert explained that at its full size, the monument likely measured 16 feet in height.

Indentations at the top of the obelisk indicate that it was covered in copper or gold to make it reflect the sun's rays.

Experts were able to exactly date the monument because of its inscription bearing the name and titles of Queen Ankhnespepy II.The obelisk appeared to have been moved some distance from its original position at the entrance of the queen's funerary complex. It is possible some of the stone from its lower section was removed and used as quarry during the New Kingdom era, or possibly later.

Excavations at Saqqara have been ongoing for the last 50 years with the goal of studying the ancient inscriptions from the Old Kingdom. Since 1987, archaeologists at the site have been excavating the necropolis of the queens buried around the pyramid of Pepy I.

Ankhnespepy II, the wife of Pepy I and the mother of Pepy II, was one of the most important queens of the Sixth Dynasty. When Pepy I, her husband, died, she married his son, Merenre, with whom she had the future King Pepy II. She became effective ruler of the kingdom when Pepy II was just six years old.

It is for this reason her burial pyramid is so large, and appears to be the first dedicated to a queen to include significant inscription.

As part of a recent dig at the the ancient Egyptian temples at Karnak, a joint French and Egyptian excavation team uncovered dozens of statues of Pharaonic gods, including Osiris, left in burial pits for thousands of years.

One of the 2,000-year-old statues, depicting the god of craftsmen and sculptors, Ptah, likely sat in the temple over a period of years, but was then ceremonially buried when it was replaced.

Ancient ruins have been a steady attraction for tourists through the years, however, Egypt has faced a decline in tourism numbers since the unrest in the wake of its 2011 revolution.