New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation is attempting to answer that question this summer, as it conducts a weathering study of Cleopatra's Needle, which was gifted to the United States government by Egypt as a token to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal. The obelisk has stood in Central Park since 1881, the New York Times reported.

Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, wrote in January that the obelisk's time in New York has degraded it, wearing away its hieroglyps because of the city's acid rain. Hawass threatened to take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home.

But as the Times pointed out, Egypt is not necessarily the safest place for precious artifacts these days; not long after Hawass put New York City on notice about the possible attempt to remove the ancient obelisk, looters ransacked the Egyptian Museum in Cairo during the upheaval that toppled the government.

Nonetheless, New York City responded that, so far, the acid rain and other New York elements are not having any measurable effect on the obelisk, which was built around 1500 B.C. to honor Pharaoh Thutmose III.

What's at stake here is this moral issue, the question, 'Who can take care of it better?' said Alexander Bauer, an anthropologist at Queens College, and who has studied the obelish. Who has the authority to own or control the cultural monuments of a country?