Philae Obelisk is examined anew
Façade of Philae temple in Aswan showing damaged obelisk standing (L) and the location of the other obelisk now in Kingston Lacy. Photo by Heidi Vanderforn

CAIRO: Archaeology researchers at Oxford University are using modern imaging techniques to reexamine inscriptions on the Philae Obelisk, currently standing in Kingston Lacy in Dorset, England, according to the Oxford University website.

The 6.8 meters tall obelisk originally stood flanking the entrance of Philae temple in Aswan and was transported to England by William John Bankes during his trip to Egypt in 1820s, archaeologist Sherif el-Sabban told The Cairo Post Tuesday.

“The pink granite obelisk, which dates back to the Ptolemaic era (332B.C-30B.C.), was dedicated to the Goddess Isis worshipped at Philae temple. It is known for its bilingual inscriptions repeating the names of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes and queens Cleopatra II and III in both Greek and Egyptian scripts, which, along with Rosetta stone, has helped in deciphering the ancient Egyptian language by comparing the two texts, which were translation of each other,” said Sabban.

Researchers from Oxford University’s Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents(CSAD) are using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) technique and 3D interactive images in order to reexamine worn out lithograph prints of inscriptions on the obelisk that were commissioned earlier in 1821. The results are expected to reveal new details on the eroded obelisk, which are no longer visible to the naked eye.

“We had no way of knowing that that drawing was correct. But our images show that whoever did the lithograph, especially of the hieroglyphs, made a really great job,” Dr. Jane Masséglia from the CSAD was quoted by BBC Sunday.

The transportation of the obelisk through the Mediterranean was executed by the Italian adventurer Giovanni Belzoni, Former Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Abdel Halem Noureddin told The Cairo Post Tuesday.

“It arrived in England in 1821 and was transported to Kingston Lacy in Dorset, homeland of William John Bankes on a converted gun carriage before it was raised upright onto a foundation stone that was prepared in advance,” Noureddin said.

According to Noureddin, obelisks, often monolithic, were common architectural features in ancient Egypt and were erected in pairs in front of a temple façade to make its location visible from a distance.

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