Statue of Amenhotep II with Meretseger

Statue of Amenhotep II with Meretseger. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 39394
Statue of Amenhotep II with Meretseger. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 39394

This statue represents the king standing with his left leg striding forward, wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt, and with a uraeus emerging from his forehead. Each foot stands on the image of the nine bows, which represent the combined enemies of Egypt.

Both arms reach down and are held against his short kilt, which is decorated with a belt. His face is round, and he has large eyes. Behind Amenhotep is the goddess Meretseger, goddess of the necropolis, represented in the shape of a cobra. Her head is surmounted by a sun-disc and cow’s horns, since she was associated with Hathor as a patroness of the west. She is standing behind the king in order to protect him. On each side of the king are inscriptions providing his name and royal titles.

The king is portrayed stamping on the Nine Arches as he advances. Bare-chested, he wears the white crown with the uraeus serpent on his head and a straight skirt decorated with a band with two uraeus serpents. The cartouche with the name Amenhotep II is inscribed on the buckle of his skirt. Behind him, the Theban goddess Meretseger in the form of a cobra coils around him and protects him. The goddess wears a headdress with the horns and sun disk typical of Hathor. At the rear, her body forms coils that are in turn wrapped by papyrus stems. This detail and the pose of the goddess as she protects the king are both similar to elements seen in the statue of Amenhotep II with the goddess Hathor found in the shrine dedicated to her in Thutmose III’s temple at Deir el-Bahari. 

The cult of Meretseger, whose name means “she who loves silence,” is known of in the Valley of the Kings on the west bank at Thebes from the New Kingdom, where she was worshiped by the men who worked on the royal necropolis. But her popularity was at its greatest during the Ramesside Period in the community of Deir el-Medina. Meretseger was identified with the peak that dominates the necropolis on the west bank and therefore she played an important role in funerary beliefs. Her principal places of worship were the partly rock-cut temple on the route towards the Valley of the Kings, the small temples at the foot of the peak she was identified with, and some small shrines at Deir el-Medina near the Temple of Hathor.

New Kingdom, mid 18th Dynasty, reign of Amenhotep II, ca. 1427-1401 BC. Granite, from Karnak. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 39394

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