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Cusae is located about 40 km to the south from Hermopolis (El Ashmunein), which was the administrative centre of this area in the Middle Kingdom. The river was still open, when Horemkhaef visited the residence in Lisht between 1,670 and 1,650 BC. Shortly after it a border was set in Cusae, where everybody sailing from the south had to pay a tax to the Avaris ruler to be allowed to continue in his way.

According to the Kamose report about a messenger holding, who carried a letter from the King Apepi to the King of Kush, the Hyksos apparently controled the path from „Sako“ (today's el-Kes) through the oasis of the Western Desert to Nubian Tumas that was situated midway between the first and the second Nile cataract. This was the way the King of Avaris gained the access to the allies – cruel Kings of Kush – and to gold as well.

At least three of the fortresses at the cataracts were still functioning (Buhen, Migrissa and Uronarti), even if there are doubts if they were control from Egypt of from Kush; however, the path through the oasis (from the southern end) was still under control and expeditions to the golden mines were set.

Despite the border the regular contact continued between the Lower Egypt and Nubia via the path through the oasis. It is obvious from the ceramics and earthenware seals findings in the fortresses at the cataracts and in the capital of Kush - Kerma. This contact lasted without a break at least in Buhen from the 13th dynasty to the beginning of the 15th Hyksos dynasty.

We can even enhance our picture of the middle Egypt with a view of a group of necropolis, which is uncovered about 50 km to the south from Cusae in Deir Rifa, Mostagedda and Kau. The graveyard S in Deir Rifa contains a group of graves of Nubians known as the „Pan Grave“ people (according to their typical shallow oval graves). They were half-nomadic cattle breeders, living on the edge of the desert. Their necropolis and settlements appeared in Egypt during the 13th dynasty.

They are identified with the Medjays from the Kamose's texts, who were sent out ahead of the Kamose's marine as scouts. Their typical handmade ceramics is to found in all settlements of the Middle Kingdom and also in the north in Memphis (Mennefer). Their graves in Deir Rifa contains tell el-jahudi ceramics comparable with the types that are found in the E/1 level in Tell el-Dab'a and that are dated to the half of the 15th dynasty. The related Egyptian ceramics belongs to the style of Memphis area of the Midlle Kingdom and it indicates that the necropolis might come from the beginning of the 13th dynasty.

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

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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)

The Hyksos in Egypt

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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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The Hyksos ruled in Egypt for two centuries and only the last Theban rulers of the 17th dynasty rebelled against the occupiers in the south of the land and forced the Hyksos out of the land after a merciless fight. Kamose was the one, who brought the biggest contribution to this turn. His brother Ahmose finished the re-conquest of Egypt later and Ahmose's son Amenhotep Ifounded the 18th dynasty then.

War with the Hyksos of the hippos

When Seqenenre Tao came to the frail Theban throne, the Hyksos king Apepi I. represented bigger and bigger danger for his territory. The Hyksos kept good relationships with Thebes (Waset) for a certain time; everybody ruled over his own territory and didn't try to make and invasion to his neighbour. But then there is a question - what happened that they started a war suddenly? The answer is in the only story, which was rewritten by Pentaueret, a scribe at the time of Merenptah's rule.

We got to know from this papyrus (only first rows were preserved) that there was a conflict between the two rulers because of the hippos in the "eastern pond of the south city". The Hyksos' ruler asked the Thebans not to hunt the hippos in this pond, because the animals made big noise and woke the Hyksos up from their sleep. So this was the heart of the conflict.

The hippo was a begrudging animal for the Thebans and his killing in a sacred pond was a ritual protection of the Egyptian Kingdom. Apepi I. and all the Hyksos worshipped the God Seth and killing of a hippo was a sacrilege for them, because hippo was considered as a Seth's personification. The Thebans refused the Hyksos requirement and they indicated through their God Amun-Ra, who managed to kill Seth that they don't intend to listen to Apepi's orders. The war became inevitable ...

Kamose and war with the Hyksos

Kamose steleWe don't know what happened to Seqenenre Tao, but there are signs of deep injury on the head of his mummy found in Deir el-Bahari. After his death Kamose came to the throne – originally a probable military commander, whose relationship with the royal family stays shrouded in mystery.

Kamose accepted the following names as a part of the titulary at his coming to the throne: Chaihernesetef ("He, who was crowned on his throne"), Horneferchabtaui ("Perfect Horus, who inhabits Both Lands) and Sedjefataui ("He, who feeds Both Lands"). With this divine protection he started the liberation of Egypt.

We don't know much about Kamose's life. We have only information from only two steles, which remind his victory and which Kamose let erect in Karnak. The first stele tells about the beginning of the war with the Hyksos and the second one about the end of the victorious campaign. We also know that the courtiers didn't share Kamose's enthusiasm for the war with the Hyksos. They preferred to live in peace without a danger of losing their own property.

Battle at Nefrusy

Kamose set out to the enemy territory with his army of Nubian archers and they reached the city of Nefrusy, which was located near Beni Hasan. He fought there with Teti – the son of Apepi I. The Hyksos were crushingly defeated in this battle and Apepi I was forced to flee in Avaris.

Kamose got up to Avaris, but he wasn't able to conquer a well fortified city, so he was satisfied with a control of goods that arrived to Avaris on the Nile.

We don't know what happened to the Egyptian liberator later. Maybe he died in a battle - the sure thing is that Ahmose finished his work. He conquered Avaris and forced the last Hyksos out of the land.

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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