The Hyksos in Egypt

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

The question, which express the substance of the Second Intermediate Period, is the character of the Hyksos. Most of our knowledge about the Hyksos depends on written sources and these come from the Egyptian side except for several of them (e.g. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus). We don't know any of Hyksos opposite of the Kamose's texts. But we do have evidence from systematic excavations in their capital, Avaris (Tell el-Dab'a). That's why we know how the Hyksos palaces, houses and graves looked like and we can also see the evolution of their culture.

Unlike the Egyptians, people of Avaris were called with a contemporary name „aamu", which was used long before the Second Intermediate Period and long afterwards (e.g. Ramesses II called his opponents at Kadesh this way) for the inhabitants of Canaan. The Egyptologists translate the expression aamu traditionally as an "Asian" – i.e. an inhabitant of the western Asia.

Name Hyksos

Contrary to this expression, the term "Hyksos" was derived via the Greek from Egyptian epithet hekau chasut, "the rulers of foreign (word for word mountainous) lands", and it only means Asian rulers. The term itself didn't have a pejorative meaning, it only expressed the lower position in comparison with the Egyptian Pharaoh and it was used by the Egyptians as well as the Hyksos Kings. In cases of proved etymology of the Hyksos name, all the personal and royal names come from the west-Semitic languages names of Asians, who lived in Egypt territory at that time. The opinions that these people could be the Hurrians or the Hittites weren't confirmed.

From the cultural point of view the Hyksos were described at "independently Egyptian". The mixture of Egyptian and Canaan cultural signs – evidenced by the objects from D/3 and D/2 layers (Apepi's rule) in Tell el-Dab'a – are recognizable in the whole delta area from the west to the east: in Tell Fauzije and Geziret El-Faras, to the west of Tanis Nile arm Faras included, in Tell el-Jahudija, Tell el-Maschuta and Tell Habwe.

All of these settlements are far smaller than Tell el-Dab'a and the main period of their inhabitation correspond with the last Hyksos layer in all cases except two – Tell el-Maschuta and Tell el-Jahudija – they ceased to exist before the period, which is representated with the last Hyksos layer (D/2) in Tell el-Dab'a. Tell el-Maschuta and surrounding settlements were located in Wadi Tumilat, which led to one of the main paths through the northern Sinai to Palestina. It was a small settlement, which was likely inhabited only seasonally. The wealth of Avaris came not only from the trade with Palestina and Levant, but also from Cyprus, especially in the last phase. The Kamose stele lists the goods imported by the Hyksos ("carriages and horses, ships, wood, gold, lapis lazuli, silver, turquoise, bronze, countless axes, oil, olibanum, fat and honey"), but only few document were preserved about the goods offered in exchange for it by the Hyksos Kings.

Tell el-Dab'a

Tell el-Dab'a

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