For Kara Cooney, Everything Is 'Out of Egypt'
Today's cuppa: decaf Mystic Monk coffee
Kara Cooney is a striking, six-foot-tall Irish/Italian-American brunette with a quick wit and an odd fascination with things that would bore the pants off of many young women.
"I love anything old and dead," she says. "I have always loved anything old and dead ... but
"It's an incredibly powerful culture and an incredibly innovative culture. I'm still waiting to be disappointed. There are still moments where I go, 'Oh, my God.'
"I'm not bored."
Since Dr. Cooney is an archaeologist based at UCLA, this all worked out in her favor.
On Monday, Aug. 24, Cooney begins a quest to make us understand why we should all be just as jazzed about
In each of the six episodes, Cooney begins in
"Everything starts in
"So that was super-fun for me, to be able to go into a Hindu temple and see the connections to Ancient Egyptian polytheism. That was insane. It was wonderful."
And because she's out of her comfort zone, Cooney doesn't just have to answer questions, she can also ask them.
"The thing is," she says, "by leaving
"So, in Egypt, I can be the expert -- 'This is this, and that is that, and this is how it works' -- but when I go to Sri Lanka, I can say to my expert, 'OK, what the hell is going on here? Will you please explain it to me?'
"And it's still cool."
With so many things in modern society referring back the Classical antiquity of Greece and Rome -- from using names of their gods to using Greek and Latin in such areas as science and faith -- what is it about more ancient, more alien Egypt that appeals to the modern mind?
"But that's all influenced by
"This is what I think about why it is that
"It takes a while to understand what it is, because it's so stylized, it's so schematic.
"Egyptian art is very intuitive. The iconography and the hieroglyphic-ness of it is so mysterious to somebody who doesn't understand it, it draws you in and makes you want to know more.
"It's intuitive in that you understand the scene right off the bat. Everything's recognizable; everything's very clear. Yet, all of the little details -- 'What's he holding? What's that here? Why is she wearing that? What does that headdress mean that's different from all the other headdresses?' Then people want to decode it.
"And it doesn't hurt that a lot of it's made of gold."
Then there's the whole mummy thing.
"Automatically," Cooney says, "we, as Americans, inherently value what the Ancient Egyptians valued -- power, money. And we're attracted to the death aspect, because we completely ignore death and hide it away.
"So, how many times in a museum do you see the kids smooshing their face up against the glass to look at the dead body and get as close to it as they possibly could?"