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Tapered four-sided pillar, originally erected in pairs at the entrance to ancient Egyptian temples. The Egyptian obelisk was carved from a single piece of stone, usually granite, and embellished with hieroglyphics. It was wider at its square or rectangular base than at its pyramidal top, and could be over 100 ft (30 m) high. During the Roman empire, many obelisks were transported from Egypt to Italy. A well-known modern obelisk is the Washington Monument.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on obelisk, visit Britannica.com.