Looking at artworks and statues that decorated ancient tombs and temples in Egypt, one will notice the frequent appearance of a loop-handled cross that figures of the gods and pharaohs were often depicted carrying.
This hieroglyphic symbol is known as the ankh – perhaps the oldest surviving and most recognized icon from ancient Egypt.
Also known as the Key of Life and the Key of the Nile, the ankh represents eternal life – life that is beyond the physical plane. The loop represents the rising sun, while the bar represents the horizon. Just as the sun rises and sets across the horizon, and the day follows the night, the shape of the ankh also made it symbolic of the continuous circle of death and rebirth, as well as a union of the masculine and feminine. In essence, it carries the same significance as the yin-yang symbol in the Far East.
Given its status in ancient Egypt, a simple stand-alone ankh tattoo is enough to carry a deeply powerful meaning. For a more personalized design, the ankh can be made ornate with other hieroglyphs or other sacred symbols from ancient Egypt, such as the scarab, the cat, the jackal and the Eye of Horus.