The Hyksos Invasion

The Hyksos invasion were an important influence on Egyptian history, particularly at the beginning of the Second Intermediate Period. Most of what we know of the life and the nature of the Hyksos depends upon written sources (of the Egyptians), such as the Rhind Papyrus (written source). Also of considerable importance is the systematic excavation of their capital, Avaris (Tell el-Dab'a).

Aamu was the contemporary term used to distinguish the life of Avaris's people, the Hyksos capital in Egypt, from Egyptians। Egyptologists conventionally translate aamu as "asiatics" The Jewish historian, Josephus, in his Contra Apionem, claims that Manetho was the first to use the Greece term, Hyksos, incorrectly translated as "shepherd-kings".

Contemporary Egyptians during the Hyksos invasion designated them as hikau khausut, which meant "rulers of foreign countries", a term that originally only referred to the ruling caste of the invaders.

However, nowaday the term Hyksos has come to refer to the whole of these people who ruled Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt's ancient history, and had to be driven out of the land by the power of the last rulers of the Dynasty 17 and the earliest ruler of Egypt's New Kingdom। "By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow; and having over powered the rulers of the land, they hen burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of gods. Finally, they appointed as king one of their number whose name was Salitis."

Some of this rings true, while other parts seem not to be. It appears that the Hyksos left much of Egypt alone. It is clear that Avaris (Tell el-Dab'a) was occupied by a people who exhibited specifically non-Egyptian cultural traits. That was discovered in the layout of the town itself, the houses, and particularly the burials, which were intermixed with the living community, unlike those of the Egyptians.

While we know that the Hyksos established centers, as their influenced gradually moved towards Memphis along the eastern edge of the Delta, at Farasha, Tell el-Sahaba, Bubastis, Inshas and Tell el-Yahudiyas, very little of this particular culture has been found at other Egyptian sites. At the same time, the Hyksos living in Egypt have been described as "Peculiarly Egyptian".

They were great builders and artisans. And little seems to have changed between the Egyptian style of governing, and that of the Hyksos. While the Hyksos imported some of their own gods, they also appear to have honored the Egyptian deities as well, such as Seth, who became assimilated with some Hyksos deities. Of course, we must also recall that Egypt already had somewhat of a history with the "Asiatics", including wars and considerable trade, so it would not be surprising to find some mix of cultures even among the Egyptians of the Delta. See the trade of ancient Egypt.

The Hyksos were basically a Semitic people who were able to wrestle control of Egypt from the early Second Intermediate rulers of the Dynasty 13, inaugurating the 15th Dynasty. Their names mostly come from the West Semitic languages, and earlier suggestions that some of these people were Hurrian or even Hittite have not been confirmed

However, it is not easy to determine their origins within that Asiatic region, and at Tell el-Dab'a, the cultivation of the people was not static, but rapidly developed new traits and discarded old ones. Yet the reason for, and method of the cultural mixing and rapid development of Asiatics at Tell el-Dab'a remains unclear.

One hypothesis is that the basic population of Egyptians allowed, from time to time, a new influx of settlers, first from the region of Lebanon and Syria, and subsequently from Palestine and Cyprus. The leaders of these people eventually married into the local Egyptian families, a theory that is somewhat supported by preliminary studies of human remains at Tell el-Dab'a.

Indeed, parallels for the foreign traits of the Hyksos at Tell el-Dab'a have been found at southern Palestinian sites such as Tell el-Ajjul, at the Syrian site of Ebla and at Byblos in modern Labanon.

Hence, the Hyksos rule of Egypt was probably the climax of waves of Asiatic immigration and infiltration into the northeastern Delta of the Nile. This process was perhaps aided by the Egyptians themselves. For example, Amenemhat II records, in unmistakable language, a campaign by sea to the Lebanese coast that resulted in a list of booty comprising 1,554 Asiatics, and considering that Egypt's eastern border was fortified and probably patrolled by soldiers, it is difficult to understand how massive numbers of foreign people could have simply migrated into northern Egypt. These people migrated, or otherwise moved to the region from the 12th Dynasty onward, and by the 13th Dynasty, this immigration became widespread.

The Hyksos did eventually utilize superior bronze weapons (fist weapons in the earth after the stone weapons), chariots and composite bows to help them take control of Egypt, though in reality, the relative slowness of their advance southwards from the Delta seems to support the argument that the process was gradual and did not ultimately turn on the possession of overwhelming military superiority.

Hence, by about 1720 BC, they had grown strong enough, at the expense of the Middle Kingdom kings, to gain control of Avaris in the northeastern Delta. This site eventually became the capital of the Hyksos kings, but within 50 years, they had also managed to take control of the important Egyptian city of Memphis.

Given this slow advance by the Hyksos rulers into southern Egypt, it seems reasonable to infer that the superior military technology of the Hyksos was but an adjunct to their exploitation of the political weakness of the late Middle Kingdom.

However, the Hyksos never really ruled Egypt completely। Their expansion southwards was eventually checked. In fact, at least early on, this may have been the result of a massive plague, for at Tell el-Dab'a we find mass graves with little attention to the burials.

Though the ruler of Avaris claimed to be King of Upper and Lower Egypt, we know from a stelae dating to the 17th Dynasty king Kamose, that Hermopolis marked the Avaris' king's theoretical southern boundary, while Cusae, a little further south, was actually the specific boarder point.
Yet Southern, or Upper Egypt was reduced to a vassaldom, probably as a result of the effectiveness, eventually, of the Hyksos military forces, at least until the reign of Kamose. Therefore, we do regard them as the legitimate rulers of the whole country during parts of the Second Intermediate Period, considered a chaotic time which the Hyksos at least partially helped to create in Egypt.

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