Meretseger “Goddess of Thebes Necropolis” was a Theban cobra-goddess in ancient Egyptian religion, in charge with guarding and protecting the vast Theban Necropolis — on the west bank of the Nile, in front of Thebes — and especially the heavily guarded Valley of the Kings. Her cult was typical of the New Kingdom of Egypt (1550–1070 BC).
Role and characteristics Meretseger’s name mean “She Who Loves Silence”,in reference to the silence of the desert cemetery area she kept or, according to another interpretation, “Beloved of Him Who Makes Silence (Osiris)”. Meretseger was the patron of the artisans and workers of the village of Deir el-Medina, who built and decorated the great royal and noble tombs. Desecrations of rich royal burials were already in progress from the Old Kingdom of Egypt (27th/22nd century BC), sometimes by the workers themselves: the genesis of Meretseger was the spontaneous need to identify a guardian goddess, both dangerous and merciful, of the tombs of sovereigns and aristocrats. Her cult, also present in Esna (near Luxor), reached its peak during the 18th Dynasty. A royal wife of the Middle Kingdom pharaoh Senusret III (c. 1878–1839 BC) was called Meretseger; she was the first to bear the title Great Royal Wife (which became the standard title for chief wives of Pharaohs) and the first whose name was written in a cartouche: however, as there are no contemporary sources relating to the Great Royal Wife Meretseger, this homonym of the goddess is most likely a creation of the New Kingdom.
Iconography Meretseger was sometimes portrayed as a cobra-headed woman, though this iconography is rather rare: in this case she could hold the was-sceptre as well as having her head surmounted by a feather and being armed with two knives. More commonly, she was depicted as a woman-headed snake or scorpion, a cobra-headed sphinx, lion-headed cobra or three-headed (woman, snake and vulture) cobra. On various steles, she wears a modius surmounted by the solar disk and by two feathers, or the hathoric crown (the solar disk between two bovine horns).