How the Ankh symbol of ancient Egypt has survived in modern languages
Impossible as it may first sound, the Ankh in the name Tutankhamen has survived in languages spoken today. One of these languages is English. The other languages are in Africa. Maybe by probing further, we may find more languages with vestiges of the ‘Ankh.’
Who was Tutankhamen?
Tut-ankh-amen was the boy king who took over the reins of power from his father Akhen-aten around 1362 BC. Before he ascended the throne, his name had been Tut-Ankh-Aton, an indication that he had worshipped Aton, just like his father.
Young Tut’s handlers changed his name to Tut-Ankh-Amun to stress the fact that Aton had been overthrown as the principle God and Amun now had been restored as the chief God of Upper and Lower Egypt. Clearly a boy of 9 years could not have understood the significance of changing his name when his priorities, like all boys his age then and now was to play with his age mates. Neither would he have had the skills or inclination to lead a super power of the day. The finger points at Horemhab the Army General as the man behind a palace coup as detailed in the lens at – http://www.squidoo.com/horemhab-was-the-cause-of-akhenaten-s-trouble.
The name Tut-Ankh-Amun is hyphenated in this hub to emphasise that it had been compounded with three words – Tut, Ankh and Amun. Each of these morphemes had a meaning. The prefix Tut may require conjecture, but certainly not Ankh.
Ankh was in reference to the symbol of life and good health often shown on images of the Aekhenaten in prayer. In these depictions, the sun’s rays hold a cross like object with a round top. This was the Ankh. Amun was of course the God whose name has been inherited by modern religions to mean “let it be – Amen.”
In the same way that Amun has survived into modern religions, Tut and Ankh too have survived as we shall soon see.
In my hub, Akhenaten and the Kikuyu, I have shown that the name Mwangi (Kikuyu) and Ntangi (Meru) are in commemoration of the coming to Power of Tut-Ankh-Amen. The prefix Mwa and Nto in Kikuyu and Meru respectively mean OF.
Mwa – Ankh (Mwangi?)
Nto – Ankh (Ntangi?)
Tut – Ankh (of the Ankh?)
It is safe to conclude that the Tut in Tut-Akh-Amen meant OF.
Vestiges of Ankh in Kikuyu, Meru and Luo
How has the Ankh survived in languages spoken today including English? We have already seen that it has survived in the names Mwangi and Ntangi but we need more proof especially with the original semantic field that included ‘health.’
The words Ugima and Mangima mean health in Kikuyu and Luo respectively. The ‘gi’ in the first word and the ‘ngi’ in the second are vestiges of Ankh, in my humble opinion.
The Ankh in English
This symbol which is really an outline of a human being with outstretched hands was very important to the ancient Egyptians. I would expect that most people would have it as a pendant or object to carry around for good luck – a sort of talisman. In the same vein sailors going out to rough seas and probably uncharted waters would need its supposed luck, health and life giving properties to ensure that they come back alive. Compare the Ankh symbol with the ‘anchor’ that sailors used to ensure that safety of docked ships. To me it seems like an anchor is an upside down Ankh. The upside down design of the anchor was likely to have been dictated by functionality.
I would like to suggest that the word Ankh and Anchor have the same root – in ancient Egyptian mythology.
The Swahili word for Anchor is Nanga. The Swahili were known to be able sailors for centuries. Lamu is an island on the Swahili coast of Kenya. The Lamu cat is the only cat species in the world that resembles the Bubastis cat of ancient Egypt, an indication of frequent contact between the Swahili and ancient Egyptians. Indeed, when Vasco da Gama arrived at the East African Coast, he had to hire the services of a Swahili sailor to navigate him to India. Swahili sailors frequently went to India on trading missions, using the seasonal monsoon winds. One wind blew them to India and at the right time and the other monsoon wind blew them back to the East African Coast. When the Swahili docked their sailing dhows, they called that action “tia nanga” – put the anchor.
I suggest too that the word Nanga, Anchor and Ankh have the same root in ancient Egypt.
The Ankh and coastal towns
When Akhenaten was overthrown by the army general Horemhab, you can expect a flood of refugees out of Egypt in all directions. This happens even today in modern states. Some walked across borders, others sailed over the oceans and seas. Those who frequently sailed on trading missions to the East African coast along the red sea would naturally have ran away with their relatives on the same known routes. When they arrived at a place where they had to dock in search of a place to settle, they would ‘tia Nanga’ – put the Anchor. You can imagine that the hoards of escaping refugees Anchored at several spots along the East Africa coast. Eventually these docking places, the Tianangas would develop into vibrant settlements. Words change over time and hence the reason why we have several places called Tanga along the East African Coast.
Clearly the word Tanga, Nanga, Anchor and Ankh have the same root in ancient Egypt.
Now these new settlers in East Africa did not stay still. While some were content to stay along the coast, others preferred to move into the interior and back to the coast on trading missions. The people in the interior may have called these newcomers the Tanga people. With time their impatient movement all over the coast and parts of the interior expanded the meaning of Tanga to mean ‘roam.’ Below are words that have been derived from Tanga and by inference, Ankh:
Tanga – walk about
Tangatanga – roam all over the place
Tanganyika – roam in the grasslands (former name for the Republic of Tanzania)
But there are inland place names with a Tanga stem, and yet there was no inland sea route. Examples are Katanga province in Congo and Gathanga in Central Kenya. It should be noted that The originator of the Kikuyu whom I have theorized as having come from Egypt was called Mukuru wa Nyagathanga. That suffix thanga has the Ankh embedded in it. We can only guess that the word has either something to do with Tutankhamen, or that anchoring had taken on the meaning of settling anywhere even inland.
In conclusion, the Ankh symbol of ancient Egyptina mythology obviously spawned the words Tut-ankh-amen, Anchor and Nanga. From the above argument, the word Ankh ismost probably responsible for the coining of the words Tanga, Tangatanga, Tanganyika, Katanga and Gathanga among others in Africa.