Great Temple of Ptah

Great Temple of Ptah

The Hout-ka-Ptah, dedicated to worshipping the creator god Ptah, was the largest and most important temple in ancient Memphis. It was one of the most prominent structures in the city, occupying a large precinct within the city’s centre. Enriched by centuries of veneration, the temple was one of Ancient Egypt‘s three top places of worship. The others were the great temples of Ra in Heliopolis and Amun in Thebes.

History of the Great Temple of Ptah

Much of what is known today about the Great Temple of Ptah comes from the writings of Herodotus, who visited the site at the time of the first Persian invasion, long after the fall of the New Kingdom. Herodotus claimed that the temple had been founded by Menes and that the core building of the complex was restricted to priests and kings. His account, however, gives no physical description of the complex. Archaeological work undertaken in the last century has gradually unearthed the temple’s ruins, revealing a huge walled compound accessible by several monumental gates along the southern, western, and eastern walls.

The remains of the great temple and its premises are displayed as an open-air museum near the great colossus of Rameses II, which initially marked the southern axis of the temple. In this sector, a large sphinx monolith is also discovered in the nineteenth century. It dates from the Eighteenth Dynasty, most likely having been carved during the reign of either Amenhotep II or Thutmose IV. It is one of the finest examples of this kind of statuary on its original site—the outdoor museum houses numerous other statues, colossi, sphinxes, and architectural elements. However, most of the finds have been sold to major museums worldwide. For the most part, these can be found on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The specific appearance of the temple is unclear at present, and only that of the direct access to the perimeter is known. Recent developments include discovering giant statues that adorned the gates or towers. Those that have been found date from the reign of Ramsses II. This king also built at least three shrines within the temple compound, where worship is associated with those deities to whom they were dedicated.


Dr Ayman Ashmawi, the head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, stated that the Ministry of Antiquities began the archaeological and scientific excavation of a plot of land owned by a citizen near the temple of the god Ptah in the Mit Rahina area. Yesterday, the landowner was arrested by the Tourism and Antiquities Police for carrying out illegal excavations. The authorities discovered blocks immersed in groundwater, and Dr Ayman Ashmawi stated that the preliminary inspection of these blocks by the antiquities inspectors of the Mit Rahina area confirmed that these are ancient blocks of pink granite and limestone bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions.

Excavations carried out by an archaeological mission from the Ministry of Antiquities revealed nineteen such blocks. These depict Ptah, the god of the city of Memphis, and bear cartouches of King Ramses II and other inscriptions depicting the king performing the Sed Festival. It is believed that these blocks represent parts of the great temple of Ptah in Memphis.

Dr Ashmawy stated that the importance of this discovery lies in the fact that the land in which the blocks were found is an extension of the adjacent temple of Ptah, adding that the inscriptions engraved on the blocks indicate the marvel and splendour of the temple’s architecture. He stressed that the Ministry of Antiquities would complete excavation work to reveal the remainder of the blocks that make up the rest of the temple and recover them from the groundwater. He also stated that the discovered blocks were transferred to the open‑air museum in Mit Rahina and the museum garden for cleaning and restoration work. After which, a decision will be made on an appropriate venue to display these recent discoveries, either in the Mit Rahina Museum’s Park or in one of the new museums that are due to be inaugurated soon.