|The ankh is the Egyptian heiroglyphic character that means life or living. Ancient Egyptian gods are often portrayed carrying it by its loop, or bearing one in each hand with their arms crossed over their chest. It is also known as the Egyptian Cross, or as crux ansata, (Latin for "cross with a handle.")|
|The ankh often appears
in tomb paintings
and other Egyptian art, either alone, or in connection with two
other hieroglyphs that mean "strength" and "health." it was
often carried by Egyptians as an amulet,
and mirrors and jewelry boxes were often made in the shape of an
It was never portrayed possessed by anyone other than a god or a pharoah, though gods were sometimes portrayed touching a mortal with an ankh, conferring the gift of life on a dead person'smummy.
The ankh symbolizes life and immortality. Its key-like shape suggests to some that it unlocks the gates of death.Coptic Christians have used it as a symbol of life after death.
|Origins and Etymology Unlike most Egyptian sacred images, the ankh did not represent a god or the disk of theSun, but was a pure symbol of deity, the giver of life. Most Egyptologists have no idea of its origins or a definitive interpretation of the symbol . Diverse theories for the origins of the ankh including the view propounded by Sir Alan Gardiner speculated that it represented a sandal strap, with the loop going around the ankle. The word for sandal strap was also spelled similarily. A. Wallis Budge suggested that the ankh originated as the belt-buckle of the mother goddess Isis. In this he was close to the truth.|
The best evidence is that the ankh evolved
from a combination of two sacred symbols: the shen and the knot of
Isis. Deriving its name from the root shenu (to
encircle), shen was al-most always a symbol of eternity. Further,
the shen also conveyed the idea of "protection."
The Knot of Isis(tyet) is an ancient symbol for Isis. It has been trans-lated as "welfare" or "life". The knot was used to secure women's garments throughout the Mediterranean and Asia Minor,