- You're looking at London's oldest outdoor monument. This 3400-year-old, 68-ft (21-m) tall pink granite obelisk was quarried from Aswan c 1475 BC and was erected in Egypt around 1500BC by Pharaoh Thotmes III. It stood outside the palace in which Cleopatra had died in 30 BC – hence its name. In 1819 it was offered to the British government as a thank you for defeating the French at the Battle of the Nile. It took 5 months to ship this 68-ton monster from Alexandria to the Embankment, London. And yes, the sphinxes that now face inwards, should of course be facing outwards, "guarding" (as opposed to staring at) the obelisk. So why did no-one say that to the cleaning contractor before he repositioned them back to front? Buried beneath are two "time capsules"; earthenware containers enclosing objects which might be dug up by future generations and regarded as "typical" of the time. They contain bibles in various languages; a box of hairpins; a box of cigars; a hydraulic jack; copies of an engineering magazine and portraits of 12 of the most beautiful Englishwomen of the day.
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