What was the Benben Stone?

Obelisk of Heliopolis (photo by Boston Public Library - PD)

Obelisk of Heliopolis (photo by Boston Public Library - PD)

The Benben stone was a massive, sacred solar obelisk in the Egyptian Old Kingdom temple of Heliopolis. It was designed to catch the first rays of the rising sun.  Legends had the Phoenix (the Benu Bird} living either on the stone or in a sacred willow tree.

The Phoenix’s flight was said to represent the capacity to leave the world and its problems behind, flying towards the sun in clear blue skies. It was considered sacred to, or a servant of Ra, the sun god of ancient Egypt and the sacred bird was described as a heron.

Approximately every 500 years when it felt the end was approaching, the Phoenix would build a nest to be used as a funeral pyre. The old Phoenix was consumed in flames and burned to ashes. A new Phoenix would arise from the flames. This is said to symbolize the rising and setting of the sun. After placing the ashes of its predecessor in an egg of myrrh it would fly it to  Heliopolis (City of the Sun) and place it on the sun god’s altar, the Benben Stone

The Benben stone was the basis for the design of later obelisks as well as the capstones on the pyramids.  The point at the top of  the obelisks and the cap stones of the pyramids themselves were gilded to also catch the first rays of the rising sun.

“O Atum the Creator (the Sun), You became high in the height  You rose up as the Benben Stone in the mansion of the Phoenix in Heliopolis.” –  From Labib Habachi, The Egyptian Obelisks, p. 5, The AUC Press, 1988

For more information about the Benben and Ancient Egypt.

Related questions:

  • What were ancient Egyptian gardens like?What were ancient Egyptian gardens like? Gardens were very much a part of life in ancient Egypt and gardening was an honored profession. Ancient Egyptians designed and spent much time in garden houses, it was not some […]
  • What is the Temple of Karnak?What is the Temple of Karnak? The Temple of Karnak is the largest temple site in Egypt.  Karnak Temple is actually composed of three main temples, several smaller enclosed temples, and several outer temples. The […]
  • How many pyramids are in Egypt?How many pyramids are in Egypt? At the last counting, there are 110 Egyptian pyramids, most of which are relatively unknown to anyone who is not an ancient Egypt enthusiast. Almost all are found around and near the […]
  • What was the Egyptian Labyrinth, a wonder that surpassed the pyramids?What was the Egyptian Labyrinth, a wonder that surpassed the pyramids? According to the 5th-century BC Greek historian Herodotus, who stated that he had seen the building, the Egyptian Labyrinth was a vast structure on the shores of a large lake located […]
  • Was there ever the catastrophic failure of a pyramid?Was there ever the catastrophic failure of a pyramid? When it comes to catastrophic pyramid failures, the first attempt to build a 'true' pyramid in ancient Egypt was just that.  The mysterious Pyramid at Meidum is the one involved. The […]

  Need research? Quezi's researchers can answer your questions at uclue.com

Written by | 10,221 views | Tags: , , ,

No Comments

Comments are closed.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Privacy Policy | Acknowledgements