"Through what the heart plans and the tongue commands"
Ptah was one of the central gods of the Memphite pantheon and the creator deity who made the world with his heart and tongue. He first created the gods then all other things: people and animals were brought into being by Ptah pronouncing their names.
He was worshipped in Memphis as the chief god, Ptah "South of His Wall". He was part of a triad here with his consort Sekhmet and son Nefertum. In later periods he was also credited with being the father of Imhotep, the 3rd dynasty architect, high priest and chancellor of pharaoh Djoser.
Outside Memphis, Ptah was worshiped all over Egypt as the patron of craftspeople and artisans. He was a favourite of the common people in the capacity of the god who hears prayers and to symbolize this, large ears were carved on the walls of his enclosure in Memphis.
Ptah is said to have invented the "opening the mouth" ritual, a central element of the mummification process that symbolically reanimates mummies. In the Coffin Text spell 62 he helps Horus to break open the mouth of Osiris and let him breath again:
"Hail to you, my father Osiris; l see, I have come. I am Horus who, with Ptah, split open your mouth, I make you spirit-like in company with Thoth, I put your heart into your body for you, that you may remember what you have forgotten."
Ptah is represented in a human, partially mummified form. His green skin tone is most likely associated with growth and rebirth. The straight beard that we see on many of his depictions, appeared starting from the Middle Kingdom. It is unusual in that other gods were depicted with a curved beard. He is most often wearing a skull cap, holding in his hands a staff which features a symbol combining the ankh, was, and djed (the symbols of life, power, and stability).
The 'ankh' is a symbol of life. The 'was' is a scepter with the head and tail of an animal god, most likely Seth. It symbolizes power and authority. The 'djed' is a column or pillar, typically colored in bright hues. The symbol is believed to have been inspired by the sacrum of a bull or other animal. It represents stability and durability. These together symbolize the creative and sustaining powers of Ptah.
Ptah was also merged sometimes with other gods creating composite gods: such as Ptah- Sokar of the Old Kingdom that became Ptah-Sokar-Osiris of the Late Period or Ptah-Tatjenen, where Ptah was merged with Tatjenen, the god of the primordial mound.
Our collection below shows different depictions of Ptah.
Detail of Ptah from the tomb of Ramesses III in the Valley of the Kings.
Detail from the tomb of Ramesses III in the Valley of the Kings, depicting the king offering incense to the god Ptah.
Depiction of Ptah from the tomb of Ramesses VI - Valley of the Kings.
Fragment of a wall painting of the god Ptah from the tomb of prince Khaemwaset, son of Ramesses II - in the Valley of the Queens.
Inherkhau before Ptah - from the tomb of Inherkhau, TT 359 located in the necropolis of Deir el-Medina on the West Bank at Luxor. Inherkhau had the title "Foreman of the Lord of the Two Lands in the Place of Truth". He lived and worked during the time reigns of Ramesses III and Ramesses IV in the 20th Dynasty.
Depiction of Ptah from the mortuary temple of Ramesses III in Medinet Habu.
Ptah by Jeff Dahl - Wikimedia Commons