The ankh symbol—sometimes referred to as the key of life or the key of the nile—is representative of eternal life in Ancient Egypt. Created by Africans long ago, the ankh is said to be the first--or original--cross. The ankh is often shown in the hands of important Egyptian figures, such as pharaohs and kings, preserving their immortality. Moreover, the ankh is commonly depicted in temples and in the grasp of major Egyptian gods such as Osiris, Isis, and Ra. It could also have a more physical connotation: the ankh may represent water, air, and the sun, which were meant to provide and preserve life in Ancient Egyptian culture. Additionally, ankhs were traditionally placed in sarcophagi to ensure life after death. While the ankh is a widely known hieroglyph, its origins are somewhat unclear. Because the ankh shows similarities to the Knot of Isis, some speculate that the ankh and the Knot of Isis represent the same thing: an intricate bow. Other theories claim that the ankh could signify the cohesion of heaven and earth, interlinking male and female symbols, or ceremonial girdles.
Last updated: November 5, 2015