University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Ethiopian Coptic Crosses [Object of the Day #21]

By: Amy Ellsworth

Ethiopian Coptic Cross
Ethiopian Coptic Cross

Saint Mark brought Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century CE. Christianity spread throughout Egypt within half a century of Saint Mark’s arrival, and by 400 CE, Christianity flourished in both Egypt and Ethiopia. These early Christians became known as Copts, from the Greek name for Egyptians, Αἰγύπτιος.
The coptic cross is said to be a variation on the Egyptian hieroglyph Ankh, meaning life. The circle represents the eternal love of God or Christ’s halo and resurrection. Coptic crosses are rarely seen depicting the crucified body of Christ.
Penn Museum Object #87-13-48.
View this object and more like it on Penn Museum’s Online Collections Database

Expedition magazine article: An Ethiopian Holy Land by Ljubica D. Popovich, 1971
Expedition magazine article: Varieties of Amhara Graphic Art by Allan Young, 1967

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