The goddess Nekhbet was the principal deity of ancient Nekheb (Elkab), from which her name is derived, which was located near Nekhen (Hierakonpolis), one of the earliest capitals of Upper Egypt. As such, she was regarded as the patron goddess of Upper Egypt and the counterpart of Uto, the patron goddess of Lower Egypt.

Nekhbet was usually represented as a vulture, either standing in profile view, holding her wings out in front of her in a protective gesture; or with her wings fully outstretched, with her head and legs in profile. As a vulture, she is very often depicted on ceilings of temples and royal tombs, or in one of the top corners of a ritual scene on a temple wall. 
She can also be shown as a woman with the head of a vulture, or she can take full human form. Through her close association with the cobra goddess Uto, she may also be represented as a snake or as a vulture with the head of a snake.
Nekhbet usually wears a variant of the White Crown of Upper Egypt, which is decorated with two feathers. In human form, or at least with a human body, she may hold a heraldic staff that symbolises Upper Egypt.

Being the patron goddess of Upper Egypt connected her very closely to kingship and she may often be seen, together with Uto, placing the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt on the King’s head. 

Uto on the left and Nekhbet on the right, crowning the king in the temple of Horus at Edfu.

The earliest known source to associate Nekhbet and Uto is the
Naqada Label. Dated to the reign of Horus Aha of the 1st Dynasty, this year label depicts the King, symbolised by his Horus Name, visiting a shrine named 'The Two Ladies Remain'.

The earliest use of the Two Ladies as part of the royal titulary dates to a few generations later, to the reign of Horus Den. This title, the Nebti Name, would continue to be used until the Greek-Roman Period, which marked the end of the Pharaonic civilisation.
Being the patron goddess of Upper Egypt, also related Nekhbet to the crown that was associated with that part of the country, the so-called White Crown. Her principal epithet, the 'White One of Nekhen', may even suggest that she was considered the personification of this crown.

Most of the ruins of her temple et Elkab, the ancient town of Nekheb, are dated to the Greek-Roman period. Some parts of buildings from the New and Middle Kingdom have survived as well. Further archaeological research might one day reveal traces of even older temples dedicated to this goddess, perhaps even going as far back as the Late Predynastic or Early Dynastic Periods.

© Jacques Kinnaer 1997 - 2017