Although often recognized for their architectural and technological advances, the ancient Egyptians were also a highly spiritual culture, one that believed in many gods and goddesses. Ancient Egyptian gods served as more than just objects of worship -- just as Khnum created the forms and shapes of living beings and Aha protected women and children during birth, the god Ptah had many duties, according to the beliefs of ancient Egyptians.
Each ancient Egyptian city had its own prominent god or goddess, who served as the town's principle divine force. Ptah -- also known as Phthah -- was the main deity of the city of Memphis, the ancient Egyptian capital city located south of the Nile River delta. Ptah resembled a mummy with a skullcap and a long, narrow goatee. He was closely associated with the war goddess Sekhmet and the youthful god Nefertem.
Ptah's primary duty as a divine figure was creation. According to the religious text inscribed on the Shabaka Stone, a Nubian relic from around the 700s B.C., Ptah performed one of the most important tasks in history: He created the world, or more precisely, he dreamed it into creation. At this time, Ptah was also believed to have created the deity Atum, who then ruled over creation.
In addition to creating on a divine level, Ptah also served as a patron or protector of earthly creators and craftsmen. In particular, the ancient Egyptians believed that Ptah watched over sculptors and craftsmen who worked with stone. Some craftsmen of ancient Egypt believed that Ptah ultimately controlled their destinies. Because of his Ptah's duty as patron of craftsmen, the high priest of Ptah was known as the “chief controller of craftsmen.”
Ptah also served as a mortuary god and deity of the underworld. As such, images of him sometimes accompanied ancient Egyptians in their tombs. In this capacity, the people of ancient Egypt linked Ptah with other funerary gods, Seker (or Sokar) and Osiris, referring to the trio as Ptah-Seker-Osiris. Both Seker and Ptah were viewed as gods of regeneration. Because Ptah sometimes took the earthly form of a bull, some speculate that he may have also been regarded as a god of fertility.
- Kim Steele/Photodisc/Getty Images