Leire Olabarria

Colleges, School and Institutes


I am an Egyptologist with a background in history and anthropology. I moved from Spain to the UK to pursue an MPhil in Egyptology (2008-2010), followed by a DPhil in Egyptology (2010-2014), both at the University of Oxford. I worked as a departmental lecturer at the Faculty of Oriental Studies (Oxford) from 2014 to 2016, when I took up a three-year research fellowship at The Queen’s College (Oxford). I am delighted to have joined the University of Birmingham in September 2019.

Research interests

My primary research focuses on how kinship is constructed and materialised in the monumental record of the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom (ca 2150–1650 BCE), and it lies in the intersection of archaeology, anthropology, and Egyptology. While my main corpus for this research comprises memorial stelae from the site of Abydos, I use information from other written, archaeological, and pictorial sources to reassess the impact that monuments have had on the construction, perpetuation, and transmission of social networks. I explore these aspects in my forthcoming monograph, “Kinship and family in ancient Egypt: archaeology and anthropology in dialogue”, to be published by Cambridge University Press in February 2020.

Other topics I am currently working on include social memory, the impact of ethnography on the creation of Egyptology, and the reception of ancient Egypt in heavy metal.

I am also a keen field archaeologist, and I participate in the Dayr al-Barsha archaeological project in Middle Egypt, where I excavate a First Intermediate Period cemetery. The results of these excavations are being processed for publication.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

I would welcome research students interested in the material culture of the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom, anthropological approaches to ancient Egypt, kinship and marriage, letters, stelae and memorial chapels, the construction of Egyptology as an area study, and aspects of the reception of Egypt in popular culture.