The Obelisk is a dangerous device created by the Kree Empire. According to Skye's father, it is known as "the Diviner" in its mother tongue. According to Dr. Daniel Whitehall, the Obelisk may even contain the secret to beating death. Thousands of years ago, a rogue faction of Kree came to Earth to experiment on humans to create living weapons for the Kree war machine. They brought with them six Diviners, containing within them Terrigen Crystals, which had the power to create an army. Their experiments, though a success, were discovered by moderate Kree, who put an end to the project and the six Diviners became lost, eventually becoming a myth to humans and Asgardians.
In 1945, during World War II, Hydra commander Werner Reinhardt tested out the Obelisk by exposing the object to Chinese prisoners. All but one, a young woman, Jiaying, were petrified by the Obelisk. Reinhardt was prevented from learning how and why the Obelisk spared her, when he received word of the Red Skull's death. But before he could move the Obelisk to a safe location, the SSR recovered the device from Hydra and arrested Reinhardt. Agent Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos sealed the Obelisk in a box, hoping it would stay buried forever. The Obelisk became the first 0-8-4 identified by the organization. In S.H.I.E.L.D.'s possession, the Obelisk was listed as a Level 10 asset.
After S.H.I.E.L.D.'s dissolution, Roger Browning, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, tried to sell the organization's secrets to the highest bidder, including information on the Obelisk. Director Phil Coulson of the newly reformed S.H.I.E.L.D. had a team of mercenaries try to buy the intelligence from Browning, but a superpowered Hydra assassin known as Carl Creel killed Browning and made off with his information.
Soon afterwards, Coulson sent that same team of mercenaries and a team of his agents to recover the Obelisk from the army base it was being stored at to prevent it from falling into Hydra's hands. Once Izzy Hartley, the leader of the mercenaries, found the device, Creel attacked her. Hartley tried to use the Obelisk against him, but the moment she grabbed the device it painfully paralyzed her hand so she couldn't let it go. Coulson's agents and the other mercenaries were able to intervene in time to force Creel to escape, but, with them now under fire from the army, Hartley's partner Lance Hunter chose for his team to leave rather than complete the mission. As they drove away from the base, Hunter amputated Hartley's arm to save her from the Obelisk's power. However, Creel appeared in the middle of the street, absorbed the asphalt in the road into his body, and forced the car to crash into him and flip over. Hartley and her driver were killed instantly, while Hunter had to watch helplessly as Creel absorbed the rubber from the car's tires into his hand and take the Obelisk from Hartley's severed hand.
While attempting to make contact with his Hydra contact, Creel discovers that he had absorbed some of the Obelisk's properties, causing him to accidentally petrify a waitress at the meeting point. He meets with his contact at another drop off, but as a result of Lance Hunter attempting to assassinate him, causing a public panic, Raina steals the case containing the Obelisk and brings it to Skye's father. He makes her pick it up, which she reluctantly does, but her touch does not invoke any violent reaction from the 0-8-4. He states that the Obelisk allowed her to live and promised to reveal its secrets only if she brings Skye to him.
Some time later, Reinhardt, now going by the name Dr. Whitehall corners Raina and places a device on her hand that will kill her unless she returns the Obelisk to him within 48 hours. Since Skye's father won't hand just hand it over, Raina plans to have Coulson give her Skye so he will give up the Obelisk. Once her plans unravel, she reveals the location of Skye's father to Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. Although he had since left that location, S.H.I.E.L.D. finds the bodies of two victims of his, leading Skye to call him a "monster." Since they now share a common enemy in Coulson, Skye's father takes the Obelisk to Dr. Whitehall and Hydra, and promises to teach them how to unlock the item's true potential.
It was revealed that the Obelisk is the object that contains the Terrigen Crystals and can be activated by putting it on an alter in an ancient city in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Diviner was used to activated Raina and Skye's Inhuman origin and killed Agent Triplett when a piece of dislodged Obelisk got jammed into his chest.
The activation of the first Diviner sent a signal to the Kree Empire. A Kree named Vin-Tak feared his people would renew the Terrigenesis project if the Inhumans were discovered, traveled to Earth to retrieve the Diviners. The Asgard detected his arrival and sent Sif to apprehend the Kree. Though Vin-Tak was able to wipe her memories to get her off his back, as soon as he found the crate that stored the Diviners, he was captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. FitzSimmons later opened the crate, finding it completely empty. In the resulting altercation after discovering that Skye was an Inhuman, which resulted in Vin-Tak getting his memories removed and sent back to his home planet, S.H.I.E.L.D. took it upon themselves to find the remaining Diviners.