Podcast Series 1- Cleopatra and Black Egypt: Fact vs. Fiction


The recent premiere of the controversial docu-drama series “Cleopatra” on Netflix, produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, has sparked a fiery debate among various communities and stirred emotions across the globe.

Using historical facts and scientific evidence, we will explore this controversy, while acknowledging the limitations of our knowledge, embracing the unknown, and encouraging open minded discussions. By carefully examining the complexities and sensitivities surrounding race, ethnicity, and cultural appropriation, we aim to provide a balanced and well-rounded perspective on this contentious issue.

The debate surrounding Cleopatra’s race and the portrayal of her in the Netflix series “Queen Cleopatra” highlights the complexities of her identity and the ongoing discussions about race, ethnicity, and historical representation. By engaging with these debates and promoting more inclusive and diverse perspectives, we can contribute to a broader understanding of Cleopatra’s legacy and the rich tapestry of human history.

We firmly believe that ancient Egyptian cultural heritage is a shared treasure that transcends borders and connects us all. Xenophobia and exclusionary ideas have no place in our discourse. Every human and culture deserve equal respect and understanding.

Join us as we unravel the truth and seek to better understand the fascinating world of Cleopatra and ancient Egypt.

Episodes one and two feature enlightening conversations with two of the prominent commentators from the Netflix series “Cleopatra”, namely, Dr. Jacquelyn Williamson and Dr. Colleen Darnell. These esteemed scholars reached out to us, eager to share their unique perspectives and to shed light on the backstory of their involvement in the show. They provide an insider’s view, recounting their experiences and motivations for participating in this docu-drama.

Cleopatra and Black Egypt: Fact vs. Fiction, Episode 1
with Dr. Jacquelyn Williamson

As a leading authority on Cleopatra’s life and history, Dr. Jacquelyn Williamson presents a comprehensive narrative of Cleopatra’s story, grounded on historical evidence. She critically examines the issue of skin color in antiquity, a matter of significant contention in the portrayal of Cleopatra in the recent Netflix series. Dr. Williamson expresses her belief that the Netflix producers have misrepresented Cleopatra, which she believes has caused damage to Egyptology. She shares her concerns about how such a portrayal can distort our understanding of historical reality and undermine the scientific integrity of the discipline.

Episode 1- Part A– Summarizing the Story of Queen Cleopatra VII

Episode 1- Part B- Addressing the Controversy

About The Speaker:

Dr. Jacquelyn Williamson
Dr. Jacquelyn Williamson

Dr. Jacquelyn Williamson received in her PhD in Egyptology from Johns Hopkins University. She is an Associate Professor of Ancient Art and Archaeology at George Mason University. She has been a member of several archaeological missions in Egypt and has worked in many museums including the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the Harvard Semitic Museum. She has held teaching and research positions at UC Berkeley, Harvard University, and Brandeis University and has appeared on television programs about ancient Egypt. She is the director of the ongoing investigation of Kom el-Nana at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt, which she has proven is the site of a “lost” sun temple associated with Queen Nefertiti. Kom el-Nana is the subject of her first book. Her work has a special focus on gender and religious power and specializes in art, archaeology, and ancient language. Her courses are consistently ranked among the top in her university, and she has been nominated for best teacher and best advisor several times.



Cleopatra and Black Egypt: Fact vs. Fiction; Episode 2 with Dr. Colleen Darnell

In this enlightening podcast, Dr. Colleen Darnell delves into the intriguing world of ancient Egypt, exploring what she would seek to understand if she possessed a time machine. She critically discusses her involvement in Netflix’s controversial series, “Queen Cleopatra,” sharing both her personal reactions and the reactions elicited from Egyptians. Furthermore, she expresses her issues with the documentary’s representation post-viewing. Dr. Darnell offers a more precise depiction of Cleopatra VII, discussing how the queen may have self-identified. She also provides unique insights into other notable queens, including Cleopatra II, III, and the iconic Nefertiti. Lastly, Dr. Colleen Darnell candidly discusses her own self-representation, tackling her image portrayal and her occasionally contentious clothing style.

Episode 2- Part A– An Insight into Dr. Darnell’s Participation, the Challenges Associated with the Netflix Series, and a Brief Discussion of other Queens.

Episode 2- Part B– Understanding Egypt’s Cultural Identity: Exploring the Egyptians’ Profound Connection to Their Past and a Candid Discussion on Dr. Colleen Darnell’s Unique Clothing Style

About the Speaker:

Dr. Colleen Darnell
Dr. Colleen Darnell

Dr. Colleen Darnell is an Egyptologist and author of six books and dozens of articles and book chapters.  She received her PhD in Egyptology from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University in 2005, and taught in the department as the William K. and Marilyn M. Simpson Assistant, later Associate, Professor of Egyptology until 2015.  She is committed to bringing ancient Egypt – its history, religion, art, and language – to a world-wide audience through lectures, articles in popular journals, and her Instagram accounts @vintage_egyptologist and @howtoreadhieroglyphs.  She currently teaches art history at Naugatuck Valley Community College.  Dr. Darnell is a regular contributor to documentaries, especially Nat Geo’s “Lost Treasures of Egypt.”  Her most recent book, co-authored with her husband, Professor John Coleman Darnell, is Egypt’s Golden Couple: When Akhenaten and Nefertiti Were Gods on Earth (St. Martin’s Press, 2022).



Below are pictures submitted by the speaker of the reliefs of Cleopatra III from the temple of Smithis at Elkab.

Reliefs of Cleopatra III from the temple of Smithis at Elkab
Reliefs of Cleopatra III from the temple of Smithis at Elkab

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