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Ankh is one of the most familiar and one of the most mysterious Egyptian artifacts and hieroglyphs. The meaning of the ankh is associated in various ways with "life" and regeneration. There are numerous explanations of its meaning; for example, "The Egyptian ankh, 'oath,' means literally an 'utterance of life,' quite in the sense of the oath sworn by a genius." (Kristensen and Kraemer 428)
In appearance the ankh resembles a Christian Cross with a loop above a transverse bar. (The ANKH) It is also known as the crux aitsata, or the 'ansate' or 'handled cross'. ( ibid) The exact origins of this symbol are also a matter of conjecture and mystery. These range from theories of sexual symbolism to a view of the Ankh as an ordinary sandal strap; although the latter interpretation seems highly unlikely in terms of its prominence in sacred gestures and architecture.
The physical origins of this symbol date to early Egyptian archeological finds. For example, in Tutankhamen's tomb, a mirror case was found in the shape of an Ankh. Many of the ancient gods of Egypt are depicted as carrying the Ankh sign. For instance the Ankh sign is held by the gods, Ptah, Satet, Sobek, Tefnut, Osiris, Ra, Isis, Hathor, Anibus, among others. (Ellison, T.R.) The Ankh is also said to symbolize the breath of eternal life as it was placed in front of the pharaoh's mouth in images and artifacts. It is also seen as a symbol of the end of life and the netherworld or underworld.
During the Amarna period, the ankh sign was depicted being offered to Akhenaten and Nefertiti by the hands at the end of the rays descending from the sun disk, Aten. Therefore, the ankh sign is not only a symbol of worldly life, but of life in the netherworld. Therefore, we also find the dead being referred to as ankhu, and a term for a sarcophagus was neb-ankh, meaning possessor of life.
In general it can be said that the meaning of the Ankh is associated with various aspects of religious symbolism and spiritual connotations. "While the origins of the ankh may be obscure, the meaning is certainly clear - "life." It is with this basic connotation that the sign is carried in the hands of many Egyptian deities." ( The ANKH) It is also interpreted as a symbol meaning health and happiness.
Researchers have associated the Ankh with the elements of fire and water as symbols of life. This also related to the above mentioned interpretation of the artifact or image as the " breath of life." Its life- giving and regenerative properties and apparent powers are emphasized as being one of its primary attributes.
Anthropomorphic pictures of the ankh sometimes show it holding an ostrich-feather fan behind the pharaoh in a variant form of this idea. Similarly, chains of ankhs were shown poured out of water vessels over the king as a symbol of the regenerating power of water. Libation vessels which held the water used in religious ceremonies were themselves sometimes produced in the shape of the ankh hieroglyph.
The meaning of the Ankh can also be related to the word for "mirror." 'mirror' was also,'ankh.' Other objects such as spoons and sistrums were constructed in this familiar shape." ( ibid) The word for mirror was interchangeable with Ankh from the period of the Middle Kingdom in Egyptian history onward. Many mirrors were constructed in the shape of an ankh. The ostensible purpose of this was for divination.
Another attempt at unraveling the mystery of the Ankh is to see it as a key. This of course refers to its key-like shape. On a more metaphorical level this indicates that the Ankh is "the key of life"; which conforms to the many other regenerative and life-giving aspects of this symbol.
Another aspect that has received attention with regard to meaning is the male and female symbolism of the Ankh. Some interpretations view the loop of the ankh as a symbol of femininity, with the T. shape is considered to be the masculine. This is an important aspect as the combination of male and female elements is a dominant ancient symbol of unity and universality. This interpretation also points towards other esoteric interpretations which emphasize the Ankh symbol as a sign of immortality. The interpretation of the Ankh as signifying and offering immortality…[continue]
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"Ankh Is One Of The Most Familiar" 03 May 2005. Web.23 October. 2016. <http://www.paperdue.com/essay/ankh-is-one-of-the-most-familiar-66513>
"Ankh Is One Of The Most Familiar", 03 May 2005, Accessed.23 October. 2016, http://www.paperdue.com/essay/ankh-is-one-of-the-most-familiar-66513