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Columbia, South Carolina

Ra Obelisk

An old train trestle re-imagined as an Egyptian obelisk. 

In 1989, construction workers were instructed to demolish an old railroad trestle in the Olympia neighborhood with a wrecking ball. When the structure refused to crumble, they left it standing. Now, the old stone looks as though it could be an ancient artifact. 

A South Carolina artist and muralist named Richard Lane thought the weathered sandstone pillar looked like an Egyptian obelisk. In 1993, he decided to paint a mural on the structure depicting Ra, the Egyptian sun god, along with various symbols and hieroglyphs. 

Some of the symbols translate to the titles of Beatles songs “Here Comes the Sun” and “All You Need is Love.” The artist would not give the meaning to the message on the right side, only saying it was an ancient concept and invited others to try to translate it. In 1995, The State newspaper offered to reward a reader with a session at a tanning salon if they could reveal the meaning.

Underneath Ra’s throne is a scarab, which in mythology rolled the sun across the sky. If you stand at the base of the obelisk on a sunny day, the light from the sun will create a glow above Ra’s head, which means the scarab is working.

In 2004, the obelisk became the centerpiece of a “pocket park” with benches around it as well as a sidewalk leading up to it. While Ra is very faded these days, the artist said in 1993 that he liked the fresh colors but looked forward to the effect the weather would play on them, making it look more in line with the age of the trestle.

  • Hill, Shelley. "Egyptian mural to decorate greenway." The State, August 26, 2004.
  • Talk About Town. "Rah Rah Ra". The State, January, 4, 1995.
  • Winchell, Ann. "Trestle rock now becomes artist's canvas". The State, December 2, 1993.