1994 …2022
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Personal profile


Karin Sowada is a specialist in the archaeology of Egypt and the Middle East, with a focus on foreign engagement, trade and societal change in the Bronze Age. She is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow leading the four-year Project ‘Pyramids, Power and the Dynamics of States in Crisis’.

The Project aims to transform existing narratives on the impact of Egypt in the eastern Mediterranean during the Pyramid Age (c. 2660-2200 BC), by demonstrating the influence of large state entities as drivers of societal change in the ancient world. Using archaeological, historical and new scientific data, the research program focuses on the role of economic interests, statecraft and leadership in the face of climate change and the movement of people. The Project includes fieldwork, and scientific collaborations on four continents.

Born and raised in Sydney, Karin graduated in archaeology from the University of Sydney in 1989, and obtained a doctorate in Egyptian archaeology from the University in 2002. In a career spanning three decades, she has worked with expeditions in Egypt (Memphis, Saqqara, Denderah, Abydos, Theban Tombs 148, 233, 147, 149), Australia, and Jordan (Pella, Khirbet Iskandar). Karin has enjoyed a long association with Macquarie University, first participating in its excavations in Egypt at Saqqara in 1995.

She is one of few archaeologists with a ‘pan-Mediterranean’ perspective of foreign relations in the Early Bronze Age. As a result, in 2007 she was invited to join the Associated Regional Chronologies of the Ancient Near East Project (ARCANE), funded by the European Science Foundation, the only Egyptian specialist in a team of over 120 international scholars. Her highly-cited work Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Old Kingdom: An Archaeological Perspective (Fribourg/Göttingen, 2009) is a seminal text in the study of international engagement in the third millennium BC.

In 1996 Karin was appointed Assistant Curator of Sydney University's Nicholson Museum, Australia’s largest collection of antiquities from Western Asia. She oversaw a major capital works expansion, curated exhibitions, and conducted extensive research, publication and public engagement with a global reach. 

In other roles, Karin has had an extensive career in community service, politics, public policy and business. She has worked with a variety of non-for-profit and church organisations, including over six years as Chief Executive Officer of Anglican Deaconess Ministries Ltd (2008-2015) and non-executive Director of national charity Mission Australia (2008-2017). In the early 1990s, Karin served as an Australian Democrats Senator for NSW in the Parliament of Australia, then the youngest woman to do so. During that time she was party spokesperson for Education and Youth, including the higher education sector.

Education/Academic qualification

Archaeology, PhD, University of Sydney

1 Jan 199531 May 2001

Archaeology, Bachelor of Arts (Hons), University of Sydney


External positions

Director, Capitol Research Pty Ltd

Feb 2015Jul 2017

Chief Executive Officer, Anglican Deaconess Ministries Ltd

Sep 2008Feb 2015

Non-Executive Director, Mission Australia

Jul 2008Nov 2017

Honorary Associate, Department of Archeaology, University of Sydney


Assistant Curator, The Nicholson Museum, University of Sydney

Aug 1996Dec 2005

Principal, Capitol Research


Senator for NSW, Commonwealth Parliament of Australia

Sep 1991Jun 1993

Undergraduate and postgraduate student, University of Sydney

Mar 1985Sep 1991

Account Executive, Jardine Insurance Brokers Australia


Account Executive, Alexander Howden Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd

Aug 19801982

Stablehand, NC Begg, Racehorse Trainer

Jan 1979Jul 1980

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Projects 2017 2022

Research Outputs 1994 2020

Perspectives on Egypt in the Southern Levant in Light of the High Early Bronze Age Chronology

Sowada, K., Mar 2020, (Accepted/In press) New Horizons in the Study of the Early Bronze III and Early Bronze IV in the Levant. Richard, S. (ed.). Warsaw, Indiana, USA: Eisenbrauns

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review

Southern Levant
Early Bronze Age

Becoming Osiris: restoration and elite emulation of a mummy from Late New Kingdom Egypt

Sowada, K., Power, R., Jacobsen, G., Murphy, T., Bertuch, F., Jenkinson, A., Carruthers, J. & Magnussen, J. S., 4 Jun 2019, (Submitted) In : Antiquity.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

The Combed Jar as a Trade 'Brand' of the Early Bronze Age

Sowada, K. & Ownby, M. F., 9 Oct 2019, (Accepted/In press) In : Bulletin d'Archeologie et d'Architecture Libanaises (BAAL). 19

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Early Bronze Age
Trace Element Analysis

The origin of imported jars from 6th Dynasty Abusir: new light on Early Bronze Age Egyptian-Levantine relations

Sowada, K., Ownby, M. F. & Bárta, M., 27 Dec 2019, (Submitted) In : The Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Early Bronze Age

The petrography of imported Levantine Combed vessels from early Old Kingdom Giza

Sowada, K., Ownby, M. & Wodzińska, A., 29 Oct 2019, In : Levant. 18 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

workers' settlement
Bronze Age

Activities 2012 2019

Seminar paper: "The Trade in Liquid Commodities between Egypt and the Levant during the Early Bronze Age"

Karin Sowada (Speaker)
12 Mar 2019

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation

Egyptology Workshop

Karin Sowada (Participant), Alexandra Woods (Organiser)
28 Feb 2019

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganising a conference, workshop, ...

Conference paper: "The Trade in Liquid Commodities between Egypt and the Levant during the Early Bronze Age"

Karin Sowada (Speaker)
12 Apr 2019

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation

Invited Science Week Lecture "Cosmic to Microscopic: Hidden Spaces and New Evidence from the Pyramid Field at Giza

Karin Sowada (Speaker)
17 Aug 2019

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Seminar: The Liquid Commodities Trade between Egypt and the Levant in the Early Bronze Age

Karin Sowada (Speaker)
6 Aug 2019

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Press / Media

Discovery of a mummy cache near Luxor

Karin Sowada


1 media contribution

Press/Media: Expert Comment

New light on how the Pyramids were built

Karin Sowada


1 media contribution

Press/Media: Expert Comment

Live TV appearance on 'The Drum', ABC-TV

Karin Sowada


1 item of media coverage

Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities

Carbon dating and Biblical Archaeology

Karin Sowada


1 item of media coverage

Press/Media: Expert Comment

The Tale of the Tattooed Mummy

Karin Sowada


1 item of media coverage

Press/Media: Expert Comment