Field-specific advice from an Egyptologist usually doesn’t have much practical application. When professor Sarah Parack tweeted instructions on how to tear down an obelisk, however, more than just archeology buffs were listening. Parack, a professor of Egyptology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, posted the step-by-step instructions from her research on ancient Egypt and suggested that the same method could be applied to more modern-day monuments — specifically, a Confederate monument in downtown Birmingham.
She shared a diagram explaining exactly how to tear down an obelisk, accompanied by the note, “There might be one just like this in downtown Birmingham! What a coincidence. Can someone please show this thread to the folks there.”
Here’s a rough schematic. I note this is experimental archaeology in action! Just my professional Hot Take and you may need more people, longer rope, etc. everything depends on monument size. pic.twitter.com/lzl55CSPNt
— Sarah Parcak (@indyfromspace) June 1, 2020
The instructions called for 40 or more people for every 10 feet of monument, using rope attached to a chain to pull in unison from all sides.
The message wasn’t very cryptic, and people certainly ran with it. That very night, crowds protesting against police brutality gathered in Birmingham and tried to tear down the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park. Randall Woodfin, the city’s mayor, announced via megaphone, “Allow me to finish the job for you,” and called in workers to remove the monument the very next night.
Dedicated in 1905, the monument had been controversial for some time. During a series of protests against Confederate monuments in 2017, Birmingham’s previous mayor ordered the monument to be surrounded by plywood to block it from view, though the plywood was removed last fall after a court order. Woodfin now faces backlash from the state’s attorney general, but appears unworried.
“In order to prevent more civil unrest,” he said, “it is very imperative that we remove this statue in Linn Park.”