An ancient Egyptian obelisk, long a fixture in New York City’s Central Park. could be on its way back to Egypt, if city officials don’t take better care of it.
Zahi Hawass, secretary general for Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, lambasted the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg for allowing the 3,500-year-old stone obelisk to become severely weathered.
Hawass said Egypt could demand to have the iconic landmark returned if the city doesn’t take steps to preserve it.
Hawass made his concerns known in a letter this week to Bloomberg.
“I have a duty to protect all Egyptian monuments whether they are inside or outside of Egypt,” Hawass wrote in the letter.
“If the Central Park Conservancy and the City of New York cannot properly care for this obelisk, I will take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home and save it from ruin,” he wrote.
The obelisk commemorates King Thutmose III and was given to the United States in the 19th century. It has stood behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art since 1881, according to UK news agency Reuters.
A similar monument, known as “Cleopatra’s Needle” was also given to Great Britain.
The hieroglyphics have completely worn away in places, he said.
Jonathan Kuhn, director of art and antiquities for New York’s Parks Department claimed that no “significant ongoing erosion” could be found, according to local news web site DNAinfo.
A Metropolitan Museum study in the 1980s found the granite was “largely inert” and that damage to the inscriptions and the base of the monument occurred in the distant past, Kuhn said.
“We have been working in recent years with the Metropolitan Museum and the Central Park Conservancy to further analyze the condition of the obelisk and monitor its condition,” Kuhn told DNAinfo.
Representatives of the mayor declined to comment, according to Reuters.