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Events & Appearances

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Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt

  • Brooklyn Museum, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Forum, 4th Floor 200 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn, NY, 11238 United States (map)

Brooklyn Museum of Art Lecture

Learn how the ancient Egyptians viewed the afterlife and about the impact feminism has had on describing the biology of reproduction and gender transformation in ancient Egypt. With Kathlyn M. Cooney, Associate Professor of Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA, and Ed Bleiberg, Senior Curator of Egyptian Art at the Brooklyn Museum.

Lecture Description

Creation and rebirth in ancient Egypt is a masculine endeavor, and in mythological and funerary texts, rebirth is highly sexualized. The female stands as a vessel or protectress during the process of sexual regeneration, but she is not the source. Given these mythological foundations, where does this leave the Egyptian female with regards to her preparation for burial and rebirth into the next life? This examination will focus on New Kingdom funerary equipment, including coffin sets, heart scarabs, and shabtis, some of which make clear gender re-assignments and others which are more ambiguous. Coffin and tomb inscriptions make it quite clear that, until very late in Egyptian history, the Egyptian woman had to undergo a gender transformation, intimately associating herself with a masculine sexualized rebirth, so that she too could enter the land of the Blessed Dead.