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Object in Focus: An Egyptian stela showing the god Ptah

Stela E.195.1899

Stela E.195.1899 in the
Fitzwilliam Museum's
Egyptian collection

This slab of stone, known as a stela, was dedicated by a goldsmith called Panehsy. The main inscription describes him as chief goldworker ... who makes the gods, which probably means that he was responsible for producing statues of gods. He was the son of another goldsmith, Paraemheb, and his wife Tamyt. Both Panehsy and his father are also known from an inscription on another stela which is now in the British Museum (EA 141).

It shows a god sitting in front of a small table for offerings. He is tightly wrapped in enveloping linen with his hands protruding at the front and wearing a close-fitting skullcap on his head. The hieroglyphs at the top of the stela identify the god as Ptah, the famous god associated with the city of Memphis who was also the patron deity of craftsmen. He holds three symbols in his hands: a was-sceptre indicating dominion, an ankh-sign, representing 'life', and a djed-sign, symbolising stability.

The inscriptions on the stela are almost all carved in sunk hieroglyphs. Between Ptah and the table are some raised hieroglyphs giving the date of year 4 of Merenptah, son of Ramesses II, which means the stela can be dated to 1209 BC (on the basis of our current understanding of Egyptian chronology).

The main inscription may be translated as follows:
An offering which [the king] gives to Ptah who is beautiful of face,
Osiris who is first amongst those in the west, Anubis, Horus and Thoth,
that they may grant a coming and going without being turned back
through the gates of the necropolis and a descending to the sacred barque
like the followers of the god when he travels to the god,
for the
ka of the chief goldworker of the House of Gold,
who makes (statues of the) gods, Panehsy, son of
songstress of Amun, Tamy(t).

The stela was given to the museum by W.J. Lewis in 1899. It is not known where it was found, but it is likely to have been in the area around Memphis because of the association of Ptah with that city and the many workshops that existed there in the New Kingdom.

Stela E.GA.4356.1943; New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC);
Bequeathed by R.G. Gayer-Anderson

Stela E.GA.4356.1943 in the
Fitzwilliam Museum's
Egyptian collection

A similar depiction of Ptah is found on another small stela in the Fitzwilliam Museum's Egyptian collection, E.GA.4356.1943. There is a winged sun-disk at the top of this stela and below are hieroglyphs which say 'Ptah, lord of Maat (divine order), king of the two lands, lord of the sky, the great god'. At the right hand edge are a number of ears which shows that the stela was carved as a request to the god to listen to a petition.

Statue of Ptah, E.75.1954

Torso from a basalt statue
of the god Ptah

A large basalt statue at the Fitzwilliam Museum (E.75.1954) can be recognised as representing Ptah, despite the fact that the statue has no head. He is shown wearing the same close-fitting garment from which his hands protrude and he is holding a was-sceptre and an ankh-sign.

These three objects are currently on display in Gallery 24. (Click here to view a floor plan of the museum.)