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From Jone Johnson Lewis,
Your Guide to Women's History.
Interview with Dr. Kara Cooney
I interviewed Dr. Kara Cooney, Egyptologist, in July, 2007. Cooney appears in the 2007 Discovery Channel documentary, Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen, about the identification of the mummy of the female Egyptian Pharaoh, Hatshepsut. Cooney is a post-doctoral teaching fellow at Stanford University, and has appeared in several other television programs about ancient Egypt.
While Cooney was not part of the research highlighted in the film, she was "the storyteller and the teacher." She brought both the perspective of cultural archaeology and -- important to telling the story of a female pharaoh -- a woman's perspective.
Some histories of Hatshepsut mention that Thutmose III was inactive until after the death of Hatshepsut, after which he suddenly becomes a military hero, expanding and solidifying the empire. He's called the "Napoleon of Egypt."
This ignores, Cooney explained, that Thutmose III was general of Hatshepsut's army before her death. If he had wanted her gone, "he could have easily taken her out," she added. So Thutmose III, once he came to maturity, had an active and important role in Egypt -- and he did not choose to take power away from his stepmother/aunt.
Cooney's conclusion is that Thutmose III tried to erase Hatshepsut's kingship images in order to establish a clear patrilinear heritage for his son. He does not replace Hatshepsut's image with his own, but largely with that of his father or grandfather, Thutmose I or II.
I asked Cooney about her comments in the documentary about Senenmut's role and place in Hatshepsut's life. She pointed out that, while we'll never know if they were lovers, they "sure do appear" to have had a highly unusual and close partnership.
Hatshepsut never remarried, and Senenmut seems never to have married or had children - highly unusual for an Egyptian man in his position.
The theory of Hatshepsut as "evil stepmother" and the theory of Senenmut as a lover of Hatshepsut have tended to go together, Cooney said, so concluding that they may have been close is uncomfortable if one does not accept the "evil stepmother" story.
Some of Senenmut's images were defaced -- we don't know why, but it may speak to them having had a close relationship. It's also possible that the evidence for their relationship is biased because Senenmut "claimed too much." We "probably won't ever solve it," Cooney added. But "it's possible that his relationship is more than as an advisor to the king."
With my interest in women's history and issues, I asked Cooney, "How's the field of Egyptology for women today?" She said that about half, maybe more, of new Egyptologists are women -- and that even in the 19th century, there were prominent women in archaeology -- Margaret Murray, for example.
Gender analysis is a "sexy topic" in archaeology today. "Antiquity is a man's world but gender analysis means we're looking at the reality that it's a man's world," Cooney explained. Women, she added, tend to bring interests in other forgotten voices, too: not just women, but foreigners, slaves, commoners.
Cooney's on-screen presence in Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen indeed does add an expert and confident -- and female -- voice for the cultural aspects of the archaeological story of Hatshepsut. Having her discuss with me some of these issues added a special dimension to the story of this unprecedented Egyptian woman, Hatshepsut -- one of the most interesting stories in women's history to hit the news in at least a decade.
Reported by Jone Johnson Lewis, About.com Guide to Women's History.
Wordt vervolg in Part 2 :)
nn ms.i sA.w -- No one is born wise.