Ancient Egypt: Drama, Spectacle, and Remarkable Characters

Kara Cooney
Kara Cooney
UCLA

Kara Cooney is a professor of Egyptology at UCLA and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. Specializing in social history, gender studies, and economies in the ancient world, she received her Ph.D. in Egyptology from Johns Hopkins University. In 2005, she was co-curator of Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Cooney produced a com­parative archaeology television series, titled Out of Egypt, which aired in 2009 on the Discovery Channel and is available online. Her popular books include The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient EgyptWhen Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt, and The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World. Her forthcoming books include Recycling for Death: A Social History of Ancient Egypt through Coffins of Dynasties Nineteen to Twenty-two and Ancient Egyptian Society: Challenging Assumptions, Exploring Approaches

 

Overview

Why is ancient Egypt so compelling to us today? Why do we care so much about the gold, the pyramids, the hieroglyphic script, the mummies, and the extraordinary leaders like Nefertiti, Ramses, and Hatshepsut, people who flourished so many thousands of years ago?

This remarkable new class will examine how Egypt is utterly unique on this planet, a protected realm full of riches beyond reckoning and agricultural resources that allowed an unassailable divine kingship to develop. We will examine the spectacle of monumental statuary, of pyramids, of coffins made of hundreds of pounds of solid gold, and of granite and sandstone pillared halls – the supports of a totalitarian regime with a veritable God-King at the helm. We will ask why the ancient Egyptians preserved so many bodies, carefully embalming the wealthy and elite into mummies, while preserving so little of the private information from their minds. Ancient Egypt remains for us a place of mystery, fascination, and contradictions, but if we pierce the carefully woven veil before our eyes, we can also see the humanity of these extraordinary people.

 

Recommended Reading:

The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World, by Kara Cooney

The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt, by Bill Manley

The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: The History of a Civilisation from 3000 BC to Cleopatra, by Toby Wilkinson

 

Discussion Questions:

1)    Do you think the Egyptians were “just like us,” or were ancient people vastly different?

2)    Do you think Akhenaten invented the world’s first monotheism? What was his purpose with his new religion?

3)    Why do we continue to talk about the Great Pyramids as supernatural?

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