Avaris (Tell ed-Dab'a) – the capital of the Hyksos

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

We have documents from Avaris (Tell ed-Dab'a) with information that an Asian community operated there already in the beginning of the 13th dynasty. But this is the only convincing archaeological proof of Asian population in Egypt (who lived in a different way of life in comparison with the Egyptians) from the Middle Kingdom. There are mentions about "Asian workers camps" in contemporary texts.

Beginnings in 1nd intermediate period

The eldest settlement of Tell ed-Dab'a, which came from the First Intermediate Period, was likely intentionally built as a part of defense system, which should ensure the eastern border. The settlement expanded a lot during the 12th and 13th dynasty and one part of it was settled by the Asians. The non-egyptian character of the community is apparent from the arrangement of the houses (which clearly refer to a Syrian model) and from the fact that the graves were included in the residential part instead of their locating in the necropolis outside the settlement.

The differences are visible not only in material culture defined by the ceramics and weapons sorts, but also in burying, which included a mixture of Egyptian and Palestinian features. Fragments of a limestone larger-than-life statue of a sitting man with a throw pole in his hand were found in a thieving pit digged through a chapel of one tomb. The art style and his clothes are not Egyptian, but the size indicates that it was a person of big importance. It is an irony that the best parallel to this statue is a small wooden figure of an Asian woman with a child, which was found in one tomb from the Middle Kingdom in Beni Hasan.

The culture of Avaris (Tell ed-Dab'a)

The culture of Tell ed-Dab'a people developed very quickly. Because of this fact it is possible to characterize every layer according to architecture, funereal customs, ceramics, iron and other products. On the other hand, there is a question why and how such a cultural mixing did happen and why the development was so fast. Tell ed-Dab'a gave us hundreds of artefacts, which can be put into well-known period II A-C of the Middle Bronze Age in Canaan. This stuff was found in nine layers (H-D/2), of which upper and lower boundary was connected by Austrian archaeolog Manfred Bietak with the reign of two Egyptian King, Amenemhet IV (1,786 - 1,777 BC) and Ahmose (1,550 - 1,525 BC).

The early expansion of Tell ed-Dab'a was temporarily stalled by an epidemic. Bietak found large common graves on several places in this area, where a quantity of bodies was laid without any visible signs of ceremony. Later, from the layer F further, the types of settlements as well as graveyards indicate a less egalitarian society than before. Big houses surrounded by smaller ones, more elaborated buildings rather in the middle of the settlement than on the edge of it, servants buried in front of the tombs of their masters, all this refer to a rule of a rich elite group.

Avaris (Tell ed-Dab'a) – the capital of the Hyksos

It starts to be obvious that at this moment of this city's history it is identical to a Hyksos capital documented in writing - Avaris. Two limestone door columns were found there, where "good God, lord of both lands, full son of Ra Nehesy" is named. Other titles and epithets of this man were found on the fragments covered with writing from Tell el-Habwe, Tanis and Tell el-Mukdam - "Seth's favourite, master of Avaris, the eldest King's son".

The last epithet is a title, which indicates a high military rank, but it doesn't mean that its owner was a real "King's son". The mention of the god Seth proves that his cult was already established there and that he was a local god of Avaris as well as Amun was a protective god of Thebes (Waset). The Seth's cult could develop by mixing of already existing Heliopolis cult with a cult of northern-syrian god Baal-Sapan, which was brought there by the Asians.

Avaris (Tell ed-Daba)

Avaris (Tell ed-Daba)

Message from the Nile

  • History of Czech institution of egyptology

    The Czech egyptology founder is Frantisek Lexa, the author of up to now evaluated work about ancient Egypt magic and Demotic grammar. Seminar for egyptology started thanks to him in Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of Charles University in Prague in 1925. Two years later Lexa became the first regular professor of egyptology in then Czechoslovakia.

  • Abusir - outstation of Czech egyptology expedition

    Abusir is an archaeological locality in Egypt named after nearby recent village Abusir. It is situated on western Nile bank on the edge of Libyan tableland approximately 20 kilometers to the south-west of Cairo. The name of this locality is derived from ancient Egypt god Osiris, from Per Usir (Busiris), "(cult) place of Osiris" (Busiris in Greek).

  • Researches in Western desert

    Czech egyptology is successful in researching not only on pyramidal fields in Abusir recently, but also in supporting and organizing smaller expeditions into egyptian Western desert. Czech expedition has been working even in slowly evanescent oasis El-Hajez since 2003, which is situated about 400 km to the south-west from Cairo.

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