Tombstone Tuesday-Obelisk Grave Marker

Obelisk shaped tombstones are commonly seen in cemeteries. They are found in various sizes and some are quite large.

Obelisk, Greenlawn Cemetery, Wapakoneta, Ohio.

An obelisk is a narrow, four-sided monument with a pyramidal shape at the top. Obelisks have been used as grave markers since the mid-1800s and are one of the most popular types of cemetery memorials. An obelisk can be used in a relatively small space and one obelisk is sometimes used for several graves or it may be the central monument of a family plot.  

Obelisk, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Ohio.

Obelisks, Union Cemetery, Darke County, Ohio.

Obelisks originated in Ancient Egypt about 2600 BC, but some other ancient cultures also built them. Ancient obelisks could symbolize a god, an important astronomical event, or commemorate the achievements of an important person. Ancient Egyptians embellished all four sides of the obelisk with hieroglyphs, engraved inscriptions, portraits, or other symbols. They were made of a single slab of granite and capped with real gold to reflect the sun. Shaped like a ray of sunshine, obelisks were often a symbol of the Egyptian the sun god Ra, who had the power of creation, and the monument seemed to follow the sun’s movement across the sky. They were usually erected in pairs and placed in front of a temple.

Today, obelisks symbolize greatness and majesty.

Obelisk, Union Cemetery, Darke County, Ohio.

Some gravestone obelisks are quite tall. One of the tallest is 150 feet high, erected in 1897 for Dr. Thomas W. Evans and located in Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A 117-foot obelisk monument marks the tomb of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, and three of their sons in Springfield, Illinois. I visited this site in 2011.

Obelisk at Abraham Lincoln’s tombs, Springfield, Illinois. (2011 by Karen)

Although not a grave marker, the 555-foot Washington Monument in Washington DC is an example of a modern obelisk and was completed in 1884.

Obelisk, Woodland Cemetery, Van Wert County, Ohio.

Some ancient Egyptian obelisks were moved out of Egypt and were erected in other parts of the world. One was moved to Central Park, New York City, in 1880 and others were moved to London, Paris, and Italy.

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