New York is abuzz with the news that Zahi Hawass, Secretary General for Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, is threatening to take back an iconic obelisk in Central Park unless New York City takes steps to restore hieroglyphics that are almost completely worn away. The obelisk, one of a pair, has been in its present place since 1881. Its sister needle stands in London on the Victoria Embankment. Both date back about 3,500 years.
Hawass has been quoted as saying that “The stone obelisk “has been severely weathered over the past century” with no effort made to conserve it. … I have a duty to protect all Egyptian monuments whether they are inside or outside of Egypt…. If the Central Park Conservancy and the City of New York cannot properly care for this obelisk, I will take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home and save it from ruin.”
In a statement released on January 4, 2011, (reprinted here) Hawass reiterated his commitment to preservation and may be repatriation of the obelisk:
… Because one of the main focuses of my tenure as Secretary General has been the conservation and protection of Egyptian antiquities, I feel it necessary that I fight for the restoration of this obelisk. Today I sent a letter to the president of the Central Park Conservancy and the Mayor of New York City asking for their assistance in caring for this artifact. …
The concern for the obelisk is valid. The irreparable damage to the surface of the stone is clearly visible by an untrained eye.