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Obituary
Cathleen Keller

08 May 2008

Cathleen “Candy” Keller, an associate professor of Egyptology in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, died of pancreatic cancer on April 18 at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She was 62.

Keller, who served as chair of the Near Eastern Studies department in the mid-1990s and as acting chair for the academic year 2006-07, specialized in Egyptian art and language. Much of her research focused on the craftsmen who painted the New Kingdom (ca. 1550-1170) royal tombs for pharaohs such as King Tutankhamen and Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, and their own tombs in the ancient village of Deir el-Medinah, where the craftsmen lived. Her research extended to the craftsmen’s work, their village, and their relationships.

Keller was one of three editors of Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh. Published in 2005 in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the book offers an in-depth treatment of the controversial Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh sometimes depicted as male.

When the M.H. de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park reopened in October 2005, it featured a crowd-pleasing exhibit on Hatshepsut. Keller developed the concept for “Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh” and was its co-curator. The exhibit also was featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth.

In 1990, Keller guest curated “From Palace and Province,” an exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum that highlighted objects from the Hearst Museum’s Egyptian collection.

The faculty curator of Egyptian art and epigraphy at the campus’s Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology since 1987, Keller co-curated “Sites Along the Nile: Rescuing Ancient Egypt,” a 1999-2001 exhibit at the museum.

In recent years, with the help of students in the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program, Keller launched a major project to digitally document the Hearst Museum’s Egyptian collection. The students took digital photos of the objects and converted them into data files for the museum’s online catalog and website. They also transferred the photos into the museum’s photo archive and helped to create the first corpus of digital images ever made of the museum’s objects.

Born in San Francisco and raised in Atherton, Keller graduated from the former Crystal Springs School for Girls in Hillsborough in 1963. All of her post-secondary degrees were from Berkeley: a 1978 Ph.D. in ancient history and Mediterranean archaeology; a master’s degree from the Graduate Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology in 1971; and a B.A. in Near Eastern languages in 1967.

Keller was an assistant professor of classical archaeology at San Francisco State University from 1976-77 and also curator there of the Sutro Egyptian Collection from 1975-77. From 1977 to 1983 she served first as assistant curator and then as associate curator of Egyptian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, then returned to Berkeley to teach.

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November 2007, Keller underwent chemotherapy and other treatments before being hospitalized on April 15. A campus memorial service is being planned for 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6, in the Lipman Room, Barrows Hall.

Contributions can be made in Keller’s honor to the Department of Near Eastern Studies’ Klaus Baer Library of Egyptology. Checks should be made out to “UC Regents,” with “Klaus Baer Library of Egyptology” in the note line, and sent to Betsy Stern, Near Eastern Studies Department, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1940.

Donations also can be made to the Cathleen Keller Fund to support high-achieving students in their study of Egyptology. Checks made out to the UC Regents, with a note about the Keller Fund, can be sent to Sharlene Mulder at the address above.

Donations also can be made in Keller’s honor to the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society. More information about donations to the society is online at www.berkeleyhumane.org/Help/Donate.htm.

Keller is survived by a sister, Susan Keller, of Redwood City.

— Kathleen Maclay