Is New York City’s weather destroying a 3,500-year-old Egyptian obelisk?
That’s a question the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation is setting out to answer this summer as it conducts a “weathering study” of Cleopatra’s Needle, which was given to the United States government by Egypt as a gift to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal. The obelisk has stood in Central Park since 1881.
In January, the minister of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, wrote that the obelisk’s stay in New York had worn away its hieroglyphs and that the city’s acid rain was gradually destroying it. He threatened to “take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home.”
But Egypt is not necessarily the safest place for precious artifacts these days.