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The was thought to represent the god's backbone and frequently appears on the bottom of sarcophagi in order to help the newly arrived soul stand up and walk into the afterlife.The symbol has also been interpreted as four columns rising behind each other, the tamarisk tree in which Osiris is enclosed in his most popular myth, and a fertility pole raised during festivals, but in each case, the message of the form goes back to the stability in life and hope in the afterlife, provided by the gods.The combination of the symbols always had a specific meaning.Wilkinson writes, "One of the most important principles for understanding the numerical symbolism of Egyptian representational works is that of the extension of numbers" (138).(16) is a cross with a looped top which, besides the concept of life, also symbolized eternal life, the morning sun, the male and female principles, the heavens and the earth.Its form embodied these concepts in its key-like shape; in carrying the , one was holding the key to the secrets of existence.It first appears in the Predynastic Period in Egypt (c. 3150 BCE) and remains a staple of Egyptian iconography through the Ptolemaic Period (323-30 BCE), the last to rule the country before the coming of Rome.
The number symbolized completeness and is seen in art, architecture, and funerary goods such as the Four Sons of Horus of the canopic jars, the four sides of a pyramid, and so on.
The significance of this celebrated stone lay not in its being of rare material or appearance, the inscription tells us, but because "his majesty found this stone in the shape of a divine hawk".
That an Egyptian king should place so much importance on a mere rock simply because of its shape is instructive, for it shows how alert the ancient Egyptian was to the shapes of objects and to the symbolic importance which the dimension of form could hold.
The scepter was usually forked at the bottom but this changed according to which god or mortal was holding it and so did the color of the staff.
Hathor, associated with the cow, holds the scepter forked at the bottom in the shape of cow horns.
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The peasant farmer would not have been able to read the literature, poetry, or hymns which told the stories of his gods, kings, and history but could look at an obelisk or a relief on a temple wall and read them there through the symbols used. These were frequently combined in inscriptions and often appear on sarcophagi together in a group or separately.