Friday, 16 July 2010

The Mystery of the Egyptian Cross and the Logan Memorial

I was gallivanting around Georgetown in Penang and saw this monument in front of the High Court on Lebuh Farquhar.

"Mahkamah Tinggi" is the Bahasa Malaysia word for "High Court"

It's called the Logan Memorial, named after James Richardson Logan, a Scottish lawyer who served in Penang in the 1840s. Here are 2 inscriptions on the monument about Logan.

Some work needs to be done on this inscription.

But that's not what this entry is about.

When I took a closer look at one of the statues on the monument I saw something mindboggling!

The statue is holding something that looks like an Egyptian Ankh !!!!!!!!!

An ankh is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic character that means "eternal life".

It can be found in in almost every part of Egypt especially in the magnificent temples in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.

Karnak Temple in Luxor


Habu Temple in Valley of the Kings.


Temple of Hatshepsut in Valley of the Kings. Somebody must have applied blusher on this statue.

Habu Temple in Valley of the Kings. Can you spot all the ankhs on the front pillar?

So why is the Egyptian symbol of eternal life doing on an English oriented statue in Penang?

You may be thinking what's the big deal? One of my friends said that the person who designed the monument probably added the ankh for fun.

But I'm quite sure this is no coincidence. I'm convinced that there is a connection between the Egyptian ankh and James Richardson Logan.

So many questions went on in my head:
  1. Does the ankh symbolise something that has something to do with the law since the memorial is named after Logan who is a lawyer?
  2. What's the connection between Logan and the ankh? Was he an Egyptologist or someone with a huge interest in Egypt?
Suddenly I felt like Indiana Jones.

So I did some snooping around in cyberspace, and found this bit of information:

"E. A. Wallis Budge postulated that the symbol originated as the belt-buckle of the mother goddess Isis, an idea joined by Wolfhart Westendorf with the notion that both the ankh and the knot of Isis were used as ties on ceremonial girdles.

In their 2004 book The Quick and the Dead, Andrew Hunt Gordon and Calvin W. Schwabe speculated that the ankh, djed, and was symbols have a biological basis derived from ancient cattle culture (linked to the Egyptian belief that semen was created in the spine), thus: 
  • the Ankh, symbol of life, thoracic vertebra of a bull (seen in cross section)
  • the Djed, symbol of stability, base on sacrum of a bull's spine
  • the Was, symbol of power and dominion, a staff featuring the head and tail of the god Set, "great of strength"
Based on the key phrases I've highlighted in red above, take a look at the statue again:

Don't you think the ankh that the statue is holding looks like a thoracic vertebrae of a bull tied to a belt buckle? And the fact that the statue is holding it near her waist gives an indication that it's a girdle?

Therefore the statue must be Isis, a goddess in ancient Egyptian beliefs, which proves my guess that what she's holding is indeed the Egyptian ankh.

So from my observation of the ankh, Isis has now come into the picture. But why is Isis looking like a Mat Salleh (Caucasian) woman instead of an Egyptian goddess?

This mystery is getting more interesting ...

I searched further in cyberspace and it's mentioned that the worship of Isis spread throughout the Greco-Roman world after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt.

I gather that the people in the Greco-Roman world may have remodeled the original Egyptian goddess looking statues of Isis to look more Mat Salleh so that it would be easier for them to relate to her.

In the Egyptian Book of Death, Isis was also known as:
  • she who seeks justice for the poor people
  • she who seeks shelter for the weak people
  • she who seeks righteousness in her people
Since this Logan Memorial was built in honour of James Richardson Logan who is a Scottish lawyer, it would make sense to use the Mat Salleh statue version of Isis to symbolise the above 3 causes. After all, the law is about seeking justice and righteousness.

I am now convinced that the statue in the Logan Memorial is indeed the statue of Isis holding an ankh.

But who would imagine Isis, an Egyptian goddess and the ankh, an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic character finding its way across the oceans and sands of time to the island of Penang.

Fascinating, isn't it?

The Logan Memorial made my trip to Penang as fascinating as my trip to Egypt.

 Note: The opinions in this blog entry is solely my own and has no connection with any existing report or findings.


Queen of hearts said...

Good observation Julie! Very interesting. *rubs chin*

Julie Lim said...

Seeing the ankh on the Logan Memorial was both exciting and intriguing at the same time! And I'm glad to share it with readers like your goodself :-)

Anonymous said...

take a closer look what she is holding seems to be broken at the ends meaning a part is missing from it

Julie Lim said...


Yes, that's a possibility. But I like to think that it as an ankh because it makes it more mysterious and interesting :-)

Alexei said...

I was in Calixtlahuaca, a place where ank cross is placed in stone, a big one, about 5 meters lenght

Julie Lim said...

Hi Alexei,

So the ankh also went to Calixtlahuaca, huh? I'll remember to look out for it when I go there. Thanks for sharing.

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