Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The ankh (pronounced 'onk') was the Egyptian hieroglyphic character that stood for the word ʿnḫ, which means life. Gods may carry it by the loop, or bear one in each hand crossed over their breast. Latinists interpreted the symbol as a crux ansata, "cross with a handle".
What it is a picture of remains a mystery to Egyptologists. Some have speculated that it represents a stylized womb. Sir Alan Gardiner speculated that it represents a sandal strap, with the loop going around the ankle. The word for sandal strap was also spelled ʿnḫ although it may have been pronounced differently. No single hypothesis has yet to be widely accepted.
The ankh appears frequently in Egyptian tomb paintings and other art; it often appears at the fingertips of a god or goddess in images that represent the deities of the afterlife conferring the gift of life on the dead person's mummy. The ankh symbol was often carried by Egyptians as an amulet, either alone, or in connection with two other hieroglyphs that mean "strength" and "health." Mirrors were often made in the shape of an ankh.
A similar symbol (♀) was used to represent the Roman goddess Venus. This symbol, known benignly as Venus' handmirror, is much more associated with a representation of the female womb. In astrology the same symbol is used to represent the planet Venus, in alchemy to represent the element copper, and in biology to identify the female sex.
In Unicode, the ankh sign is U+2625 (☥).
The ankh is widely employed in pop culture, as a textual device to instantly communicate deep history, arcane life-forces and/or spiritual magic.
- It may also be silk-screened on t-shirts and is widely featured in communal alternative events like "Burning Man".
- The ankh helps Afro-Americans channel revived interpretations of the ancient religion of an Afrocentered Kemet, the "black" Egypt.
- It is associated the comic book superhero Doctor Fate,
- Also with the character Death from the comic book series The Sandman.
- In the form of a pendant, symbolizing Sanctuary, it was worn by an underground network of Runners attempting to escape their fate in the 1976 science fiction film Logan's Run, based on William F. Nolan's novel of the same name.
- The Ankh is also a notable symbol in Ultima and Tomb Raider series of computer games. In Ultima games, it is the symbol most often associated with the Avatar, as well as the Virtue of Spirituality.
- It is suggested that because of his many deaths and reincarnations, the shape of Kenny McCormick in the South Park series is based on the ankh. Kenny always wears an anorak (see anorankh).
- Ankh was also a symbol in the vampire culture .
- Ankh is also the name of a major river in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of fantasy novels.
- In the Lucasfilm Games computer game Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders the Ankh appears several times on teleporter devices.
- Ankh is also the Visual Studio .Net plugin for Subversion source control.
- Taylor Ray Ellison,"The ancient Ankh, symbol of life". Brief, balanced, illustrated.
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