Basque Cross & Nkontim Symbol

(The Lauburu)

The Basque Cross shape is called a Lauburu, an ancient symbol of prosperity. In the Basque language lau-buru means 'four mountain peaks' and it is possible this term gave rise to the name of Labarum.

In West Africa there is a hill called Nkontim and the Nkontim Symbol has similar characteristics, though completely unrelated, to the Basque Cross.

Basque Cross
Basque Cross

Stela with lauburu
Stela marker
with lauburu
(Click image
to enlarge)

The Basque Cross shape is called a Lauburu, an ancient symbol of prosperity. In the Basque language lau-buru means 'four mountain peaks' ('four heads' or 'four tips') and it is possible this term gave rise to the name of Labarum.

In the Basque Country, the symbol became popular in the 16th century art either as a representation of the four medieval regions (Araba, Biscay, Gipuzkoa and Navarre) or as a Christian Cross (following the Reconquista). The symbol does not appear on the Basque Flag or any of the coats-of-arms of the seven regions (Álava, Bizkaia, Guipúzcoa, Navarra, Behe Nafarroa, Lapurdi and Zuberoa).

Nkontim Symbol

Nkontim symbol
Nkontim symbol

A symbol with similar characteristics, though completely unrelated to the Basque Cross, is the African Nkontim. (Coincidentally, however, just as the word lau-buru is associated with mountains, there is a hill in Cameroon called Nkontim.)

The symbol's hairy and industrious image gives a clue to its meaning:

The symbol can be seen painted on the shells of African drums sold to tourists.

Curved cross
Curved cross

The Suavastika

Suavastika

The swirling cross is also seen in the Suavastika, the Curved Cross and several others.

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