The Hyksos were a migratory people who invaded Egypt around 1700 B.C. and established themselves as rulers during the 15th century. They were Asiatic and possibly associated with Hebrews; their personal names are west-Semitic.
The Invaders Take Over
The Hyksos were given their name by the Egyptian historian Manetho; the word translates as “rulers of foreign lands.” They entered Egypt during a time of political unrest and easily established their rule. They lived primarily in the Eastern Delta, making their capital at Avaris (Tell el-Dabʿa, Northeast Delta), and ruled most of Lower Egypt and the Nile valley as far south as Cusae. They were great builders and artisans, and much of what we can learn about them can be found at the site of Avaris, which is under excavation.
New Ideas and Weapons
The Hyksos brought the horse and chariot, battle axes, the compound bow and new fortification techniques into Egypt. No doubt these weapons and inventions were an important reason why the Hyksos were able to establish their dynasties so quickly. Despite their military prowess, the Hyksos' 108 years of rule were a time of peace and prosperity. They were respectful of native customs and religions, and allowed Egyptians positions of importance in their culture.
The Hyksos presided over two dynasties: The first was run by minor Hyksos kings (1684-1567) and the other was the purview of great Hyksos kings (1674-1567). The two dynasties operated simultaneously, and most likely were related, with the lesser kings subservient to the greater ones.
The End of Hyksos Rule
Egyptian culture benefited from Hyksos rule. In addition to the weapons and use of horses in battle, the Hyksos improved pottery and textiles, and introduced new fruits and vegetables to the region. They also preserved the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, an important study of the human body from 3000 B.C. Eventually, though, the Hyksos were ousted by native Egyptians. They had never controlled all of Egypt, and when a revolt spread north from Thebes, they were unable to hang onto power and their dynasties were brought to an end.
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