An obelisk was a monument made of stone. Each obelisk was placed in a public place. In ancient Egypt, obelisks were often built in pairs. Some were not very high. But some were seventy feet (70 feet!) tall. A few were even taller! They were very heavy and very impressive.
An obelisk has four sides and tapers towards the top to a pyramid shaped point. In ancient Egypt, these huge structures were cut from one huge piece of incredibly heavy stone. The ancient Egyptians were clever. They found a way to stand these huge stones upright after they had been decorated and carved with writing telling of the wonderful life and great achievements of the person each obelisk honored.
The pharaohs ordered these huge monuments built for them so that they would always be remembered. The writings on the obelisks tell us a great deal about the ancient Egyptian civilization.
Most obelisks were commissioned by pharaohs, but anyone could build one if they had the money.
The ancient Egyptians are not the only civilization to build an obelisk. In relatively modern times, around the middle of the 1800's, about the same time in American history as the Gold Rush, the government of the United States began building an obelisk in Washington DC, to honor our first president, George Washington. We call this obelisk the Washington Monument. You can see the Washington Monument today. It's still standing. It was built using 36,000 huge heavy blocks of stone. The Washington Monument is 555 feet tall!