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Geek Girl Riot

Egyptologist Kara Cooney – Okay Cleo, How about the Other Female Kings of Egypt

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Top row: Kara Cooney // Bottom row L–R: Gal Gadot (photo: Gage Skidmore) // Yellow coffin at The Cantor 
Arts Center at Stanford University (photo via Instagram)

Egyptologist Kara Cooney takes our Rioters back to Ancient Egypt with stories about Cleopatra and the other Women Kings of Egypt. She also draws some incredible parallels from their society to today’s world.

Cleo, Cleo, Where for art Thou Cleo?
In a recent episode we talked about the controversy surrounding the upcoming Gal Gadot/Patty Jenkins’ Cleopatra film. That got us talking about the exoticism and mystique attached to Cleopatra and other famous female leaders in history. So we invited Egyptologist Kara Cooney onto the show to provide some expert insight into Cleopatra and the other female Kings of Ancient Egypt. As a professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA, Kara has so many fascinating stories about Egypt and how everyone wants to have a claim to it. Kara gives us an enthralling look at the iconic country, that highlights a history and culture far more impactful than Ptolemaic rule—a dynasty that still leads to arguments about who “is” Cleopatra today.

Cleopatra and the Badass Female Kings of Egypt (and We’re Not Talking about the Name of our Next all-Girl Band)
All the arguments over whether Cleopatra was an inbred Macedonian Greek, Nubian, or fully Egyptian stem from much deeper issues than you’d think. Kara breaks it down for us with the Ptolemy family in all its bloody Game of Thrones-esque glory. Then she highlights some of the other female Kings of Egypt who are badasses in their own rights and deserve just as much media attention. We want so much more of: Merneith, Neferusobek, the magnificent Hatshepsut, the mysterious Nefertiti (shhhhh, she’s possibly hidden behind Tutankhamun’s tomb—this story is wild), and Tawosret. These women ruled dynasties!

Go deeper with Kara and the Women Kings of Egypt
in this phenomenal video from Nat Geo.

Egyptian History is Now
In our final segment Kara looks back at the history of the patriarchy in Egypt & beyond in order to shed some light into the chaos we’re now facing in 2020. As the pushback against current society gets more and more divisive, it shows even more parallels to Ancient Egypt’s structure and its challenges from the Roman Empire. Our Rioters also get into the more accurate movie depictions of Egypt, as well as Kara’s fascinating specialty with coffins (yes, that’s a real thing and it is AWESOME).

Photos via Instagram - keep scrolling to find out more!

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Tune in to Geek Girl Riot on idobi Radio every Tuesday at 11pm ET / 8pm PT for your dose of late-night geekery from our team of rioters. ’Til next time, see a list of everything our Rioters talked about below:


 – Gal Gadot & Patty Jenkins to make Cleopatra biopic
Kara Cooney on YouTube
 – When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of EgyptKara Cooney
 – The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt – Kara Cooney
 – The Cost of Death: The Social and Economic Value of Ancient Egyptian Funerary Art in the Ramesside Period – Kara Cooney
 – Wonder Woman
 – Laurence of Arabia
 – Game of Thrones
 – The Burial of Nefertiti? (2015) Nicholas Reeves
 – The Decorated North Wall in the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV 62) (The Burial of Nefertiti? II) (2019) – Nicholas Reeves
 – The Burial of Nefertiti (2020) – Nicholas Reeves
 – The Mummy
 – The Scorpion King
 – Stargate
 – Pretty in Pink


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