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Personal profile

Biography

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 Director of the Australian Centre for Egyptology at Macquarie University, and as an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, leads 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 over three decades, she has worked with expeditions in Egypt (Memphis, Saqqara, Denderah, Abydos, Theban Tombs 148, 233, 147, 149), Australia, Jordan (Pella, Khirbet Iskandar) and elsewhere. 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

Award Date: 31 May 2002

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

19851989

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

20042011

Assistant Curator, The Nicholson Museum, University of Sydney

Aug 1996Dec 2005

Principal, Capitol Research

19931996

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

19831985

Account Executive, Alexander Howden Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd

Aug 19801982

Stablehand, NC Begg, Racehorse Trainer

Jan 1979Jul 1980

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