Unexplained Mystical Structure: Egyptian “Ankh Cross” Temple―Built By The Aztecs?

By Richard Cassaro | November 13th, 2012 | Category: Sacred Sites & Symbols | Comment

The Egyptian ankh cross…in Mexico? That’s right. The ruins of a mysterious Aztec temple bears a strange and striking resemblance to Egypt’s ankh cross. This Aztec ankh temple is perfectly aligned with an Egyptian-like stone pyramid at the same archaeological site. Scholars doubt any Aztec connection to the Egyptians, since both cultures evolved on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and were never in contact. Yet, strangely, the meaning of this Aztec ankh seems suspiciously parallel to the meaning behind Egypt’s ankh cross.

Pyramid aligned with an Egyptian-style ankh cross temple, Calixtlahuaca, Mexico.

The Aztecs and the Egyptians were parallel civilizations in many ways, despite having evolved on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Both cultures built pyramids, both used solar symbolism, and both believed in life after death, preparing their dead for a journey to the afterlife via an elaborate and highly-ritualistic ceremony.

Both cultures also used a very similar “tau” cross symbol―for the very same purpose: To signify the forces and interplay between physical life (which they saw as temporary, material) and spiritual life (which they saw as eternal, spiritual).

In Egypt, this cross was called “ankh,” which was formed by a “tau” cross (looks like the letter “T”) with a loop on top of it:

Egypt’s ankh cross is a tau symbol with a loop on top.

In Mexico, the Aztecs and Mayas used the same exact “tau” cross, only with no loop:

Tau-shaped icons built by the Mayans, forerunner of the Aztecs.

The Tau cross was common enough in Egyptian symbolism that it has sometimes also been called the Egyptian cross…The Spanish conquistadors found the cross to be well known as a symbol by the Incas and Aztecs…”

― Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: A-D

The Egyptian Tau―the sign of life―also occurs on Central American monuments…”

―Robert S. Littell, The Living Age

Usually the Aztecs did not put a loop above their tau cross. However, there exists in ruins a cruciform-shaped building located at an archaeological site called Calixtlahuaca in present-day Mexico. This Aztec ankh cruciform building is stunningly similar, in both shape and design, to countless ankh crosses depicted by the Egyptians.

Mysterious ankh-shaped cruciform building, built by the Aztecs at Calixtlahuaca in Mexico.

Can it be proven that both the Egyptians and Aztecs use this same cross symbol to convey the same spiritual beliefs?

The Ankh was, for the ancient Egyptians, the symbol (the actual hieroglyphic sign) of life. But not the “life” that we think of when we use the word “life”; it was symbolic of another kind of life, namely the spiritual life of the soul that most of us do not recognize in our day-to-day existence.

The ankh cross is sometimes called the “key of life.”

“There is one basic mistake Egyptologists are making when it comes to Egyptian civilization: They believe the Egyptians were “preoccupied” with death. Egyptologists repeat this over and over again like a mantra. They’re wrong— the complete opposite is true. The Egyptians were profoundly focused on “life,” which they took to be the “spiritual” being within them, the part that never dies.

Here’s the difference (and this is important): The Egyptians were convinced—like so many of us are—that when a person passed away, something that formerly animated that person’s body was now missing or had fled. They believed much more strongly than we do that this non-material Self, the “soul within” or “god within,” was the “vital force” and the source of consciousness. They saw this soul as their real Selves, the real “Life” eternal, which they symbolized with the ankh cross, today found everywhere among the ruins.

Unlike the Egyptians, modern Westerners are far more attached to the material world and physical body. We identify with our bodies, cars, homes, and careers. To the Egyptians, we are the ones preoccupied with death, and overly concerned with our own perishable material selves. We identify not with the soul, but with the transitory vehicle it temporarily inhabits.

Although in Egypt life itself was seen as a manifestation of the divine, and therefore something that could be enjoyed and should be celebrated, identifying solely with the body as we moderns do transforms the body into a tomb and the world into a prison. By constantly nurturing the soul, they were “practicing” for life after death, one might say. When death came, therefore, nothing vital was considered lost. Today, if death comes to a man with a mansion, a fleet of cars, and a large company or hedge fund—all is lost.”

―Richard Cassaro, Written In Stone: Decoding The Secret Masonic Religion Hidden In Gothic Cathedrals And World Architecture

The Aztecs believed in precisely this same “life” as the Egyptians. For the Aztecs (as for many of us) a person’s death was not the end of their existence; instead it was the end merely of the physical life of that person. There was something inside that continued to exist, that lived on after death:

“The Aztecs believed that people lived on when their life on Earth was over. The kind of afterlife they had depended on the way they had lived in this life….When someone died, their family dressed them in their best clothes. The family danced and chanted funeral prayers…Then the Aztec’s body was buried…with the Aztec’s possessions and enough food for the long journey to the underworld…”

Dr. Elizabeth Baquedano, The Aztecs: Understanding People In The Past

“In the Aztec religion there was the belief in a life after death…In relation to this belief the Aztecs show an ethical ideal to attain, evidenced in their struggle of good against evil. In this case the mission of the Aztecs was to be on the side of the sun, the symbol of good, opposing the fearful gods of darkness, the symbols of evil.”

― Dinorah B. Méndez, Evangelicals in Mexico: Their Hymnody and Its Theology

Whereas the Egyptians used the ankh cross (formed in part by the tau) to express this concept of “life” beyond death, the Aztecs did as well. The Aztec tau cross was identical to the Egyptian:

Aztec tau cross, also called the Tree of Life, housed in the Anthropology
Museum in Mexico City. This image recurs in Prehispanic codices.

“In the Aztec world, the tau cross is the Tree of Life…”

―Gary Varner, Mysteries of Native American Myth and Religion


“…the cross…was a sacred symbol in practically every religion…Among the Aztecs of ancient Mexico…it was known as the Tree of Life.”

― Jean Delaire, Mystery Teaching in the West, 1935

As a symbol of the Tree of Life, the Aztec tau cross (like the Egyptian tau) symbolized the concept of “life” and “life after death”―the same “life after death” the Egyptians symbolized using the ankh cross.

It should be noted that the Aztecs were not the only pre-Columbian American culture to use the Tau; the T-shaped doorway or window appears as a common architectural motif in stone masonry across Mesoamerica. It is found, for instance, at Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico and Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado.


Steps leading through a T-shaped doorway down into
Casa Rinconada, the Great Kiva at Chaco Canyon, N.M.

In his classic book Atlantis: the Antediluvian World, Ignatius Donnelly says the tau was an important icon signifying “hidden wisdom” for Mexicans as well as for Peruvians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Chaldeans. Donnelly says it was emblematic of rejuvenation, freedom from physical suffering, hope, immortality, and divine unity.

The mystic Manly P. Hall held a similar view:

Augustus Le Plongeon, in his Sacred Mysteries Among the Mayas and Quiches, notes that the Crux Ansata, which he calls The Key to the Nile and the Symbol of Symbols, either in its complete form or as a simple TAU, was to be seen adorning the breasts of statues and bas-reliefs at Palenque, Copan, and throughout Central America. He notes that it was always associated with water; that among the Babylonians it was the emblem of the water gods; among the Scandinavians, of heaven and immortality; and among the Mayas, of rejuvenation and freedom from physical suffering.”

―Manly Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Getting back to the tau being a direct link that connects the Egyptians with the Aztecs, we can see in the following parallel artwork how both cultures, the Egyptians and Aztecs, created similar drawings associated with the tau cross.


Left: Aztec Tree of Life. Right: Egyptian Ankh cross of Life. Both depict tau crosses.
In both images there are twin deities facing inward, toward the cross. The
positions of their arms, hands, feet and legs are almost perfectly parallel!

Note how in both images above there are deities flanking the cross. In both instances the deities are striking symmetrical poses, facing the cross. Also, in both instances, the deities seem to be making the same precise bodily gestures. We see this in the positions of the hands, arms, legs, feet and heads.

In one of the Qabbalistic Masonic legends, Hiram Abiff is given a hammer in the form of a TAU by his ancestor, Tubal-cain. The tau cross is preserved to modern Masonry under the symbol of the T square. This appears to be the oldest form of the cross extant.

The tau cross used to build patterns in a window at
the Convent of Saint Anthony near Castrojeriz, Spain.

The philosophical cross, the two lines running in opposite directions, the horizontal and the perpendicular, the height and breadth, which the geometrizing Deity divides at the intersecting point, and which forms the magical as well as the scientific quaternary, when it is inscribed within the perfect square, is the basis of the occultist. Within its mystical precinct lies the master-key which opens the door of every science, physical as well as spiritual, it symbolizes our human existence, for the circle of life circumscribes the four points of the cross, which represent in succession birth, life, death and IMMORTALITY.”

― H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled

The Fool, sitting for days beneath the tree of life (which has the shape of a tau cross) intent on finding his spiritual Self, suddenly climbs a branch and dangles upside down like a child, forgetting for a moment, all that he is and all that he knows.


The Hanged Man (XII) is the twelfth trump or Major Arcana card in most
traditional Tarot decks. It is used in game playing as well as in divination.

Money and coins fall down from his pockets, but instead of seeing money he sees merely metal and paper. He feels as though he’s hanging between the mundane world and the spiritual world, able to see both. The moment feels surreal; connections he never understood before are made, mysteries are revealed. The biggest mystery of all is the realization that he is not merely the physical body, that part of himself that is physical and temporary. He is composed of a spiritual inner Self, a soul, and that this soul is eternal; it was never born and will never die.

In his book The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, A.E. Waite, the designer of the Rider-Waite tarot deck, described the Hanged Man as the man who suddenly recognizes—or, better, “resurrects”—his higher Self and higher nature, which until then had in a sense been “dead” within him:

The gallows from which he is suspended forms a Tau cross…There is a nimbus about the head of the seeming martyr. It should be noted (1) that the tree of sacrifice is living wood, with leaves thereon; (2) that the face expresses deep entrancement, not suffering; (3) that the figure, as a whole, suggests life in suspension, but life and not death…He who can understand that the story of his higher nature is imbedded in this symbolism will receive intimations concerning a great awakening that is possible, and will know that after the sacred Mystery of Death there is a glorious Mystery of Resurrection.”

―A.E. Waite, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

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In Conclusion

Today, the prevailing anthropological view of antiquity among scholars is that ancient and indigenous peoples worldwide developed their own complex cultures independent of outside influence or inspiration. Any suggestions to the contrary have been generally dismissed as either fanciful, racist, or demeaning. Ancient peoples worldwide, scholars have argued, were fully capable of developing their own civilizations. But, nagging evidence still remains; evidence like the ankh cross and tau cross symbol being found worldwide, and particularly among the Egyptians and pre-Columbian American cultures.

For more information, read the book Written In Stone: Decoding The Secret Masonic Religion Hidden In Gothic Cathedrals And World Architecture, by Richard Cassaro:

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