English Name：Key of Life, Cross of Life, Ankh
Origin and Meaning：The Ankh is one of the most recognizable symbols from ancient Egypt, known as "the key of life" or the "cross of life", and dating from the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 - 2613 BCE).
It is a cross with a loop at the top. The symbol is an Egyptian hieroglphy for 'life" or "breath of life".
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 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 sacrophagi to ensure life after death.
The ankh's association with the afterlife made it an especially potent symbol for the Coptic Christians of Egypt in the 4th century CE who took it as their own. This use of the ankh as a symbol of Christ's promise of everlasting life through belief in his sacrifice and resurrection is most probably the origin of the Christian use of the cross as a symbol of faith today.
The origin of the ankh is unknown. The Egyptologist Sir Alan H. Gardiner (1879 - 1963 CE) thought it developed from a sandal strap with the top loop going around one's ankle and the vertical post attached to a sole at the toes.Gardiner came to his conclusion because the Egyptian's life and the ankh symbol came to symbolize life. This theory has never gained wide acceptance, however.
The theory of Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge (1857 - 1934 CE), who claims it originated from the belt buckle of the goddess Isis, is considered more probable but still not universally accepted. Wallis Budge equated the ankh with the tjet, the "knot of Isis", a ceremonial girdle thought to represent female genitalia and symbolizing fertility. This theory, of the ankh's origin stemming from a fertility symbol, is in keeping with its meaning throughout ancient Egyptian history and beyond to the present day.
Egyptologist Wolfhart Westendorf (b. 1924 CE) supports Wallis Budge's claim noting the similarity of the ankh to the tjet and the use of both symbols from an early date in Egypt's history. The ankh has always been associated with life, the promise of eternal life, the sun, fertility, and light.
Deities such as Anubis or Isis are often seen placing the ankh against the lips of the soul in the afterlife to revitalize it and open that soul to a life after death. The goddess Ma'at is frequently depicted holding an ankh in each hand and the god Osiris grasps the ankh in a number of tomb pantings. The association of the ankh with the afterlife and the gods made it a prominent symbol on caskets, for amulets placed in the tomb, and on sarcophagi.