Kathlyn Cooney


Kathlyn (Kara) Cooney is Associate Professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture at UCLA is the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. She earned her PhD in Near Eastern Studies from Johns Hopkins University in 2002. She has been part of archaeological excavations in Egypt at the craftsmen’s village of Deir el Medina, the royal temple site of Dahshur and various elite Theban tombs. Her academic work is published under her formal name Kathlyn M. Cooney, but she is called Kara by everyone.

Besides UCLA, Kara has also taught at Stanford and Howard University. She headed the Villa Scholars Program at the Getty Research Institute from 2006-2008. In 2005, she was co-curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. A native of Houston, Kara received her B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. Her first book, The Cost of Death: The Social and Economic Value of Ancient Egyptian Funerary Art in the Ramesside Period was published in 2007, and She is currently working on two research projects including a study of coffin theft and reuse during the 20th and 21st Dynasties and a biography of Hatshepsut, the 18th Dynasty female king.

Kara produced a comparative archaeology series with her husband Neil Crawford entitled OUT OF EGYPT, which aired 2009 on the Discovery Channel and is now streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime. In 2006 Kara appeared in EGYPT’S LOST QUEEN, a documentary about Hatshepsut, Egypt’s most successful female ruler.



2002                      PhD Egyptian art and archaeology, Johns Hopkins University, conferred 2003

  • Dissertation: "The Value of Private Funerary Art in Ramesside Period Egypt”
  • Department of Near Eastern Studies (advisors Betsy M. Bryan and Richard Jasnow)
  • Minor in ancient Near Eastern art and archaeology (advisors Glenn Schwartz and Ann Gunter).

1994                      BA’s in German and Humanities, University of Texas at Austin

  • summa cum laude
  • Special Honors in Humanities, focus on archaeology and ancient art (advisors Norman Farmer and Denise Schmandt-Besserat)


  • 21st Dynasty funerary practice – reuse, robbery, innovation in a time of crisis, and the 21st Dynasty Egyptian Coffins Database.
  • Craft specialization, socioeconomic value, reception history and taste change in funerary arts; anthropology of funerary rituals and belief; transformative funerary rituals.
  • Gender studies of rule (Hatshepsut) and gender studies of funerary belief (coffins).
  • New Kingdom socioeconomic texts in western Thebes.
  • Sketching, figured ostraca, and communities of practice.
  • Contextual architectural studies, particularly focusing on Theban region.
  • Afro-centrism and Egyptological agendas; the socioeconomics of the Egyptian blockbuster exhibition.
  • Material culture studies: coffins and funerary objects of the Ramesside and early Third Intermediate Periods; Late Period bronze votive statuettes; scarabs, sealings, molds and faience amulets.



2013 forthcoming Hatshepsut: The Woman Who Became King, under contract with Crown, a subsidiary of Random House.

initial research      Death in a Time of Recession: The Sustainability of Ancient Egyptian Funerary Arts Consumption in the 21st Dynasty

in process              A Coffin of One’s Own in Ancient Egypt: The Journey from Commodity to Religiously Charged Object

proposal                Prada Handbags and Painted Coffins: How the Ancient Egyptians Perfected Social Display and Competition through Materialism

2007                      The Cost of Death: The Social and Economic Value of Ancient Egyptian Funerary Art in the Ramesside Period, Egyptologische Uitgaven 22, Netherlands Institute of the Near East, Leiden.


2013 forthcoming “Coffin Reuse in the 21st Dynasty: A Case Study of Egyptian Coffins in Italian Collections,” in Denkschrift for Cathleen Keller, Deanna Kiser-Go and Carol Redmount, editors.

2013 forthcoming “Textual Evidence from Western Thebes for Funerary Arts Reuse and Usurpation,” in: Jaana Toivari-Viitala, ed., Deir el Medina Studies: Helsinki, Finland 24th – 26th of June 2009, Helsinki University.

2013 forthcoming “Coffins, Sarcophagi, and Cartonnage,” in: M. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Egyptian Art, Blackwell (Oxford).

2012 forthcoming “Informal Apprenticeship: Sketching and Figured Ostraca in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,” in: Archaeology and Apprenticeship: Acquiring Body Knowledge of the Ancient World, W. Wendrich, ed., University of Arizona Press Press (Tucson).

2012 forthcoming Coffin Reuse in the 21st Dynasty: How and Why did the Egyptians reuse the Body Containers of their Ancestors?Backdirt: Annual Review of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology 2012.

2012                      Objectifying the Body: The Increased Value of the Ancient Egyptian Mummy during the Socioeconomic Crisis of Dynasty Twenty-one,” in: J. Papadopoulos and G. Urton, eds., The Construction of Value in the Ancient World, Cotsen Institute Press (Los Angeles): 139-159.

2012                      The Woman who Would be King,Lapham’s Quarterly V,4 (fall 2012) edition entitled Politics: 216-221.

2011                      “Changing burial practices at the end of the Ramesside Period – Evidence of Tomb Commissions, Coffin Commissions, Coffin Decoration, Mummification and The Amen Priesthood,” submitted to the Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 47: 3-44.

2010                      Gender Transformation and the Egyptian Coffin: A Ramesside Case Study,” Near Eastern Archaeology 73/4: 2-15.

2009                      “Where does the Masculine Begin and the Feminine End? The Merging of the Two Genders in Egyptian Coffins during the Ramesside Period,” in: Ehrenmord und Emanzipation: Die Geschlechterfrage in Ritualen von Parallelgesellschaften, B. Heininger, ed., LIT Verlag (Münster): 99-124.

2008                      “The Fragmentation of the Female: Re-gendered Funerary Equipment as a Means of Rebirth,” in: Sex and Gender in Ancient Egypt, C. Graves-Brown, ed., Classical Press of Wales (Swansea): 1-25.

2008                      “The Social and Economic Aspects of Funerary Arts in Ancient Egypt: How much did a Coffin Cost?” in: To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum of Art, E. Bleiberg, ed. (New York).

2008                      “Profit or Exploitation? The Production of Private Ramesside Tombs within the West Theban Funerary Economy,” Journal of Egyptian History 1 (2008): 79-115.

2008                      “Androgynous Bronze Figurines in Storage at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,” in: Sue H. D'Auria, ed., Servant of Mut. Studies in Honor of
Richard A. Fazzini
. Probleme der Ägyptologie series, 28. (Leiden): 63-72.

2008                      “The Functional Materialism of Death: a Case Study of Funerary Material in the Ramesside Period,” in: Das Heilige und die Ware, IBAES VII, M. Fitzenreiter, ed., Golden House Publications (London): 273-299.

2007                      “The Ancient Egyptian Labor Force,” in: The Egyptian World, T. Wilkinson, ed., Routledge Press (London).

2006                      “An Informal Workshop: Textual Evidence for Private Funerary Art Production in the Ramesside Period,” in: Living and Writing in Deir el Medine: Socio-historical Embodiment of Deir el Medine Texts, July 2004, Aegyptiaca Helvetica series 19, Andreas Dorn and Tobias Hoffmann, eds. (Basel): 43-56.

2005                      “The Daily Offering Meal in the Ritual of Amenhotep I: An Instance of the Local Adaptation of Cult Liturgy,” co-authored with J. Brett McClain, Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 5, 41-79.

2005                      “Zwischen Ägyptologie und Afrozentrismus,” Ma'at. Archäologie Ägyptens 2, 6-11.

2005                      “Scarabs in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Part I: Intimate Protection or Distributed Propaganda? Scarabs in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,” co-authored with Johnna Tyrrell, PalArch, Netherlands Scientific Journal 4, 1 (October): 1-13.

2005                      “Scarabs in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Part II: Catalogue of Scarabs in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,” co-authored with Johnna Tyrrell, PalArch, Netherlands Scientific Journal 4, 1 (October): 15-98.

2002                      “The Value of Art in New Kingdom Egypt: the Commission of Private Funerary Arts in the Ramesside Period,” Center: Journal of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art 22: 69-73.

2002                      “Prologue” in: The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt, Betsy M. Bryan and Erik Hornung, eds. (Washington, D.C.): xi-xiv.

2000                      “The Edifice of Taharqa: Ritual Function and the Role of the King,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 37: 15-47.


2005                      Portraits of the Ptolemies: Greek Kings as Egyptian Pharaohs by Paul Edmund Stanwick, PalArch 4, 1 (October): 1-3.

2005                      Ancient Egypt: A Very Short Introduction by Ian Shaw, PalArch 3, 1 (July): 1-3.

2005                      Scarabs, Scaraboids, Seals and Seal Impressions from Medinet Habu by Emily Teeter, PalArch 2,2 (April): 1-3.

2003                      Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt by Lynn Meskell, American Journal of Archaeology 107: 43-44.


2012 in process     “The Function and Meaning of Burial Deposits,” UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology (Los Angeles).

2012 in review     “Ostracon,” UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology (Los Angeles).

2008                      “Scarab,” UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology (Los Angeles), 11 pgs.

2007                      “Obelisk,” The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Abingdon (Nashville).

2007                      “Pyramid Texts,” The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Abingdon (Nashville).

2007                      “Tirhakah,” The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Abingdon (Nashville).


2005                      Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, June 16 – November 15, 2005.

2002                      Quest for Immortality: Treasures from Ancient Egypt, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., June 27 – October 15 2002.


2003 – 2004          The Egyptian Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Online Catalogue of approximately 900 ancient Egyptian objects (categories: Coptic, Metalwork, Mummy Labels, Ostraca, Scarabs, Seal Impressions, Stone), published at http://collectionsonline.lacma.org.


2007 – present      Principal investigator, ongoing research of 21st Dynasty coffins in museum collections and storage magazines in Egypt, North America, and Europe. Coffins have been studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen, Carlsberg Museum in Copenhagen, Nationalmuseet in Stockholm, Museo Egizio in Turin, Museo Archaeologico in Florence, Museo dell’Accademia in Cortona, Gregorian Egyptian Museum in the Vatican, Musée du Louvre Paris, Kunsthistorischesmuseum Wien, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden. Currently funded by Faculty Research Grants UCLA & Cotsen Institute UCLA. The project has a formal partner with the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, Vatican.

2000                      Principal investigator, Study season of New Kingdom and TIP funerary materials in storage magazines at the village of Deir el Medina and the Cairo Museum, sponsored by the American Research Center in Egypt, funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

1995 – 1999          Theban Tomb 92, Luxor, with specialization in analysis of textile remains, sponsored by Johns Hopkins University, director Betsy M. Bryan.

1997                      Pyramid complex of Senwosret III, Dahshur, with specialization in limestone fragments from the Queen's chapels, sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, director Dieter Arnold.


2004 –2005           Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Co-curator of Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs

  • Responsible for LACMA curatorial activities, including wall text, labels, brochure, curriculum, Boone children’s Gallery, docent liaison and training, education liaison.

2003 –2004           Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Guest Curatorial Researcher

  • Documentation of the George Michaelides archaeological collection (Egyptian, Near Eastern, Coptic, Arabic, and Greco-Roman objects), Museum Loan Network Grant.
  • Collections Online Database made possible by Getty Grant Program.

2001 –2002           The National Gallery of Art, Curatorial Assistant, Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt (June 27 - October 15 2002)

1997 – 1999          The Walters Art Museum, Curatorial Assistant, research for reinstallation of the ancient Egyptian collection.