Coffins are important social documents, but they are difficult to document, photograph, and analyze. Robust scholarship has advanced our understanding of these objects and their social contexts, including studies by Andrej Niwinski, John H. Taylor, Nicholas Reeves, and Karl Janssen-Winkeln. For the past ten years, I have been systematically examining human reactions to social crises, specifically focusing on material adaptations evident within an ideological context, but also documenting coffins from Dynasty 18 to 22. This research is the first systematic study of funerary arts reuse and theft within the field of Egyptology, but the work also allows the first thorough photographic documentation of these coffins. Thanks to a grant from the Antiquities Endowment Fund of the American Research Center in Egypt, I documented and analyzed most of the coffins from the Deir el Bahari 320 and Kings Valley 35 (Tomb of Amenhotep II) royal caches in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in December of 2016 and September of 2018. Although the coffins from the royal cache were recorded by Daressy in the Catalogue Géneral, none of them have benefitted from a comprehensive photographic analysis, not to mention examination from the perspective of craft specialization or reuse.


Kathlyn (Kara) Cooney is professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA. Her research investigates the socioeconomic and political turmoil that have plagued the 21st Dynasty, ultimately affecting funerary and burial practices in ancient Egypt. The project presented in this lecture has taken her around the world over the span of five to six years to study and document more than 300 coffins in collections around the world, including Cairo, London, Paris, Berlin, and Vatican City. Her first trade book, The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt is an illuminating biography of its least well-known female king and was published in 2014 by Crown Publishing Group. Her latest book, When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt, was published in 2018 by National Geographic Press.

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