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UCLA Magazine

Kara Cooney

Writer of the Lost Monarch

Sandy Siegel '72 | October 1, 2014

Do an internet search of Kara Cooney and up come the words "female Indiana Jones."

Still, the noted Egyptologist says she's "more of a muser than a discoverer." For the last four years, the associate professor of Egyptian art and architecture in UCLA's Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures has been musing about an ancient Egyptian female ruler not named Cleopatra. The result is a new biography, The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt.

Combining research findings and speculation about Hatshepsut's life some 3,500 years ago, Cooney paints an illuminating portrait of the ancient world's longest-reigning female ruler. The daughter of a king, Thutmose I, she was also the half-sister and "great wife" of Thutmose II. When the latter died young, leaving only a daughter from his marriage to Hatshepsut, his infant son from a minor wife fell heir to the throne. With Thutmose III too young to rule, Hatshepsut assumed power as queen regent, and in time she was crowned king to serve alongside her nephew/stepson. Her combined 22-year reign was one of relative peace, prosperity, expansion and extensive building. But much of her legacy was eradicated by Thutmose III after her death, leaving a mystery Cooney was eager to unravel.