Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a Member »

Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.

Central Park’s Cleopatra’s Needle, with added protection

Apparently Egypt is starting to get jealous of Greece and wants to repatriate Cleopatra’s Needle, the trophy of cultural dominance granite stele that’s been festooning Central Park since 1881. Too bad 129 years is totally long enough for finders keepers! Here are five reasons Egypt won’t get their stele back. So there.

[Hat tip to Animal New York]

Yahoo News reports that Zahi Hawass, the guy in charge of Egypt’s antiquities, contacted Mayor Bloomberg requesting Cleopatra’s Needle back, accusing New York of letting the sculpture decay even further. Hawass says that the stele “has been severely weathered over the past century,” and that its “hieroglyphics have completely worn away in places.” Studies conducted by the Metropolitan have shown no such damage, so we predict that it’s not going anywhere! And here’s why

1. People in glass pyramids shouldn’t throw stones.

No, we’re not talking about the Louvre. As it turns out, Egypt doesn’t have the best history of preserving its own cultural artifacts. A rising water table has led birds to peck away at the giant monuments and avalanches of tourists have sweated tomb paintings to death. Is Central Park really all that bad, then?

2. Everyone else still has theirs, so why should we give up ours?

The Central Park stele is named Cleopatra’s Needle, but the stone shares that name with three other monuments taken from Egypt and transported to the Western world. London and New York split up a pair of steles while the Needle in Paris is totally unrelated. If England and France can hold onto theirs, why not us!?

3. If we don’t have Cleopatra’s Needle, what will the next Dan Brown book be about?

If Cleopatra’s Needle left Central Park, a crisis of artistic inspiration would befall us. What could possibly spark the imagination of America’s greatest writer so well as an Egyptian monument in the middle of our country’s awesome-est city? Nothing. And that’s why we need the Central Park stele.

4. We already sold the real one and replaced it to pay for the national debt.

Did you know the national debt has already skyrocketed to $14,028,296,540,683.83? Yeah? Well it would be a lot higher if we hadn’t sold off that big Egyptian rock on the black market to a shadowy consortium of private collectors. So even if we wanted to give it back, we can’t. Hawass can totally have the fake though.

5. We all know they just want it back so they can sell it to Dubai.

Trying everything it can to look like it has an ancient heritage worthy of trillions of dollars of oil money, Dubai is now looking to create a fake history of cultural antiquities. Hey, we did it first! Egypt has more than enough rocks and stuff, so passing off a few on Dubai would be super easy. Are we going to give in to that?

[THIS IS TOTALLY A JOKE]

The Latest

Required Reading

This week, the scourge of immersive exhibitions, the popularity of anti-vax deathbed videos, the pregnant man emoji, Chomsky on Afghanistan, Met Gala commentary, and more.


The Editors

The Editors divide their time between Kinshasa, Brno, Goa, and Tikrit. They are fabulous and they will always be at the party you weren't invited to.

10 replies on “5 Reasons Egypt Won’t Get Their Central Park Stele Back”

  1. Neglected to mention: if the three obelisks (of Power, Courage, and Wisdom) are all returned to Egypt, Hawass can make a single wish.

  2. hehe, I like #3.

    @Sehs: it’s a joke

    Seriously though, the obelisk IS in a bad shape, especially when you compare it to its English twin. It’s nothing to blame on the people of New York (or even, in my opinion, the government), but I believe it largely has to do with the weather.

    1. According to a 1980 Met Museum study, the vast majority of the damage on the obelisk was historic and prior to its arrival in New York, so the New York version was probably worse off than the London one before they even left Egypt.

  3. I had the opportunity to meet Zawi Hawass about a decade ago and although he was a nice guy in person, he’s a tyrant. He basically cuts off access to Giza (Sphinx, Great Pyramids, etc.) to researchers/authors who argue that the mysterious structures are pre-Egyptian. One of the most notable examples of this was his very public spat with Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval. This man is dangerous.

  4. Apparently Cuba has also requested returning Guantanamo but word on the street is the military are planning to saw off that piece of Cuba and float it out to the Everglades…

Comments are closed.