Nekhbet (//; also spelt Nekhebit) was an early predynastic local goddess in Egyptian mythology, who was the patron of the city of Nekheb (her name meaning of Nekheb). Ultimately, she became the patron of Upper Egypt and one of the two patron deities for all of Ancient Egypt when it was unified.
Egypt’s oldest oracle was the shrine of Nekhbet at Nekheb, the original necropolis or city of the dead. It was the companion city to Nekhen, the religious and political capital of Upper Egypt at the end of the Predynastic period (c. 3200–3100 BC) and probably, also during the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3100–2686 BC). The original settlement on the Nekhen site dates from Naqada I or the late Badarian cultures. At its height, from about 3400 BC, Nekhen had at least 5,000 and possibly as many as 10,000 inhabitants.
Nekhbet was the tutelary deity of Upper Egypt. Nekhbet and her Lower Egyptian counterpart Wadjet often appeared together as the "Two Ladies". One of the titles of each ruler was the Nebty name, which began with the hieroglyphs for [s/he] of the Two Ladies....
In art, Nekhbet was depicted as a vulture. Alan Gardiner identified the species that was used in divine iconography as a griffon vulture. Arielle P. Kozloff, however, argues that the vultures in New Kingdom art, with their blue-tipped beaks and loose skin, better resemble the lappet-faced vulture.
In New Kingdom times, the vulture appeared alongside the uraeus on the headdresses with which kings were buried. The uraeus and vulture are traditionally interpreted as Wadjet and Nekhbet, but Edna R. Russmann has suggested that in this context they represent Isis and Nephthys, two major funerary goddesses, instead.
Nekhbet usually was depicted hovering, with her wings spread above the royal image, clutching a shen symbol (representing eternal encircling protection), frequently in her claws. As patron of the pharaoh, she was sometimes seen to be the mother of the divine aspect of the pharaoh, and it was in this capacity that she was Mother of Mothers, and the Great White Cow of Nekheb.
In some late texts of the Book of the Dead, Nekhbet is referred to as Father of Fathers, Mother of Mothers, who hath existed from the Beginning, and is Creatrix of this World.
In popular culture
- Nekhbet is a bird-like monster in Final Fantasy 12.
- "Nekhbet". Dictionary.com. Random House. 2012.
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- Robins, Gay, Review of The Animal World of the Pharaohs and Choice Cuts: Meat Production in Ancient Egypt. Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 119, no. 1, (January–March 1999)
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- Marcelle Werbrouck, Fouilles de El Kab II. 1940, S. 46ff.