After the French and British occupations of Egypt, there was a renewed interest in Egyptian architecture and symbolism in America, including the obelisk, those tall thin four-sided columns that tapered upward and then end in a pyramid at the top. The obelisk is a ubiquitous gravestone shape found in American graveyards. They range from short obelisks like the zinc-cast obelisk in the Somerset Cemetery at Somerset, Ohio, which is only a few feet tall to soaring monuments upwards of 30 to 40 feet like the obelisk in the Forest Lawn Cemetery at Buffalo, New York, pictured below.
The obelisk is said to represent a single ray of sunlight, petrified from sunlight into stone. It was thought that the Egyptian sung god Ra lived within the obelisks. These towering monuments were often placed flanking the entrance to temples.
The most famous obelisk and the tallest in the world (standing at 555 feet) is the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. built to honor George Washington.