Dennis Cassinelli: Mountains, pyramids and obelisks
Human beings throughout history have always been attracted to and been obsessed by mountains, pyramids and obelisks. Ever since Moses climbed Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, people have looked toward the highest peaks in their territory with awe. Even when I was a hunter years ago, we knew the biggest bucks were always to be found near the highest peaks in the mountain ranges of Nevada. More than 297 people have died while trying to climb the world’s highest mountain, 29,029-foot-high Mount Everest. And yet, every year more people continue to try to reach the top. This is truly an obsession, even though many have died trying.
And then, there are pyramids. In 1843, John C. Fremont saw the massive tufa formation on the shore of a desert lake he named Pyramid Lake because it reminded him of the Egyptian Pyramids. When I was in college, a friend of mine and I went to the lake and climbed to the top of the pyramid because we were fascinated by it. We could feel the warmth of the hot spring coming up from the tufa that had formed the pyramid. This foolishness is no longer allowed by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
For some unknown reason, human beings in ancient times felt compelled to construct pyramids. There were at least 80 or more pyramids constructed in ancient Egypt. The African country of Sudan actually has more pyramids than Egypt. Pyramid building is something human beings feel compelled to do, just as bees are compelled to build a hive.
Pyramid building isn’t something performed only in the Old World countries of Egypt and Sudan. There are pyramid-like structures in China and other Southeast Asian countries. In the “new world” countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru among others, there are many ancient pyramids built by the Aztecs, Mayans and other cultures. It seems to me there must have been some exchanges of ideas in ancient times for all these cultures to have the same desire to construct pyramids. There’s even an ancient pyramid in the state of Illinois, near the Mississippi River.
Egyptian obelisks are tall, narrow monuments with four sides that taper into a pyramid at the top. They were built by pharaohs between about 2,600 and 4,000 years ago. Throughout the years after the decline of Ancient Egypt, all but a few of the obelisks were taken away to be erected in other countries. France, Israel, Poland, Turkey and the United States each have one. The United Kingdom has four and Italy has 13, including one in the Vatican City. Most of these were removed from Egypt many years ago and transported at great expense to the other countries.
There are probably more obelisk shaped objects in the world today than any other type of monument. They are common in most older cemeteries worldwide. At the Nevada State Hospital in Sparks, I was involved in the placement of a memorial obelisk which bears plaques on each of the four sides with the names of 800 people interred there. There’s a photo of this on my website.
Many cities, including Buenos Aires, have spectacular modern obelisks. Human beings seem to have a certain fascination with the phallic shape of an obelisk. The largest obelisk in the world happens to be the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Constructed in phases between 1848 and 1884, it stands more than 555 feet high and cost $1,187,710 to build. The pyramid at the top is aluminum and is connected to the metal framework inside the masonry to act as a lightning rod.
This article is by Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted on his blog at denniscassinelli.com. All Cassinelli’s books sold through this publication will be at a discount plus $3 for each shipment for postage and packaging.