High Priest of Ptah

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Reconstruction of the temple of Ptah in Memphis during the 19th Dynasty
High Priest of Ptah
in hieroglyphs
Era: New Kingdom
(1550–1069 BC)

The High Priest of Ptah was sometimes referred to as "the Greatest of the Directors of Craftsmanship" (wr-ḫrp-ḥmwt). This title refers to Ptah as the patron god of the craftsmen.[1]

Ramesses II flanked by Ptah and Sekhmet

The office of the high priest of Ptah was located in Memphis in Lower Egypt. The temple of Ptah in Memphis was dedicated to Ptah, his consort Sekhmet and their son Nefertem.[2]


High priests of Ptah are mentioned in inscriptions dating back to at least the Fourth Dynasty. In the tomb of the nobleman Debhen, for instance, there is a description of a visit by Pharaoh Menkaure to the construction site for his pyramid "Divine is Menkaure". The pharaoh is accompanied by a naval commander and two high priests of Ptah.[3]

There used to be two high priests of Ptah until the Sixth Dynasty. It was probably during the reign of Pepi I Meryre that the two offices were combined into one. In the tomb of Sabu called Thety in Saqqara, the owner mentions that "His Majesty appointed me as High Priest of Memphis alone. [...] The temple of "Ptah-South-of-His-Wall" in its every place was under my charge, although there never was a single High Priest of Ptah before."[4]

A large temple complex dating to the time of Ramesses II is located at the modern site of Mit Rahina. The Temple of Ptah from this time period was one of the largest temple complexes in Egypt. Not much of this complex has been excavated because a large part of the site lies very close to the modern town.[5]

It continued to be an important office in the Ptolemaic period, and the priestly family held many important priestly positions. The high priests crowned some of the Ptolemaic monarchs, and they also served as scribes in the dynastic cult of Arsinoe. The family was speculated to have a blood tie to the Ptolemaic family via a woman named "Berenice", wife of Psenptais II, who was claimed by some modern historians to possibly be a daughter of Ptolemy VIII.[6] However, this speculation has recently been refuted by Egyptologist Wendy Cheshire.[7][8]

The office appears to have disappeared during Roman rule of Egypt; it is last attested in 23 BC.[6]

Sem Priest (of Ptah)
in hieroglyphs
Era: New Kingdom
(1550–1069 BC)

Sem Priest of Ptah

Prince Khaemwaset with the short wig and side lock typical for the sem priest of Ptah

It was common for the high priest to also hold the title of sem priest of Ptah. The sem priest could be recognized by the fact that he wore a short wig with a side-lock and was dressed in a panther skin.

List of high priests

Old Kingdom

Middle Kingdom

  • Ptahemheb 11th Dynasty.
  • Sehetepebre-ankh time of Senusret I (Statue in Brooklyn Museum, Genealogy of Ankhefensekhmet Berlin 23673)
  • Senewosret-Ankh time of Senusret I?
  • Khakare-ankh time of Amenenhet II, known from the Genealogy of Ankhefensekhmet (Berlin 23673)
  • Nebkaure-ankh time of Senusret III, known from the Genealogy of Ankhefensekhmet (Berlin 23673)
  • Ouahet time of Senusret III
  • Nefertem
  • Sehetepebreankh-nedjem time of Senusret III to Amenemhat III.
  • Nebpu time of Amenemhat III.
  • (..)hotepib(rê?) Sheri Time of Amenemhat III
  • Impy I Time of Amenemhat III - Amenemhat IV

Second Intermediate Period

  • Sergem (High Priest of Ptah) Time of Iby I (13th dynasty)
  • Sobekhotep (Haku), known from a statue and a seal
  • Senbuy
  • Seneber... (name not fully preserved), known from a papyrus found at Lahun
  • Ptahemhat 15th dynasty

New Kingdom

Eighteenth Dynasty

Nineteenth Dynasty

Twentieth Dynasty

Third Intermediate Period

Twenty-first Dynasty

Twenty-second Dynasty

Twenty-fifth Dynasty

  • Pedekhons?

Late Period

  • Pedepep, temp. Psammetikhos I
  • Pefteuemauibaste

Ptolemaic Period

The High Priests of Ptah in Memphis became very important during the Ptolemaic Period.[12]

  • Nesisti-Pedubast, son of Anemhor I and Renpet-neferet. Married to Renpet-neferet and Nefersobek. Children included Pedubast, Khonsiu, Amenhor II, Nefertiti and Neferibre.
  • Pedubast I (High Priest of Ptah), son of Nesisti-Pedubast and Nefersobek.
  • Amenhor II, son of Nesisti-Pedubast and Nefersobek. Married Herankh. Children include Djedhor, Horemakhet and possibly Horemhotep.
  • Djedhor son of Amenhor II and Herankh.
  • Horemakhet (223 BCE) son of Amenhor II and Herankh.
  • Nesisti (c. 190 BCE), son of Horemakhet and Nefertiti. Succeeded Horemakhet as High Priest of Memphis probably between 194/3 and 180
  • Pedubast II (High Priest of Ptah), son of Psherenptah and Taimhotep. Grandson of Horemakhet and Nefertiti.
  • Psherenptah II, son of Pedubast II
  • Pedubast III (High Priest of Ptah) (103 BCE), son of Psherenptah II and Berenice
  • Psherenptah III (76 BCE), son of Pedubast III and Herankh-beludje
  • Imhotep-Pedubast (39 BCE), son of Psherenptah III and Taimhotep
  • Psherenamun I (30 BCE), brother-in-law of Psherenptah III. Son of Ka-hapi and Her-ankh
  • Psherenamun II (27 BCE), son of Psherenamun I and Taneferher.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Dodson and Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, 2004
  2. ^ Wilkinson, The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, 2000, Thames and Hudson, p. 83
  3. ^ J.H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol I, 2001 (originally 1906), pp. 94-95
  4. ^ J.H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol I, 2001 (originally 1906), p. 133
  5. ^ Wilkinson, The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, 2000, Thames and Hudson, p. 114-115
  6. ^ a b "High Priests of Ptah in the Ptolemaic Period". Digital Egypt for Universities. University College London. 2002. Retrieved 2022-04-21.
  7. ^ Wendy Cheshire, The Phantom Sister of Ptolemy Alexander, Enchoria, 2011, p. 20-30.
  8. ^ Lippert, Sandra (2013), "What's New in Demotic Studies? An Overview of the Publications 2010-2013" (PDF), The Journal of Juristic Papyrology: 33–48
  9. ^ a b Donald B. Redford, The Coregency of Tuthmosis III and Amenophis II, The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 51 (Dec., 1965), pp. 107-122
  10. ^ W. F. Albright, Cuneiform Material for Egyptian Prosopography 1500-1200 B. C., Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1, Albert Ten Eyck Olmstead Memorial Issue (Jan., 1946), pp. 7-25
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n K.A. Kitchen,The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt, 1100-650 B.C., 1996 ed.
  12. ^ High Priests of Memphis, a website by Chris Bennett