The Hyksos were a group of mixed Semitic-Asiatics who settled in northern Egypt during the 18th century BC. In about 1630 they seized power, and Hyksos kings ruled Egypt as the 15th dynasty (c. 1630-1521 BC).
The name Hyksos was used by the Egyptian historian Manetho (fl. 300
BC), who, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (fl. 1st
century AD), translated the word as "king-shepherds" or "captive
shepherds." Josephus wished to demonstrate the great antiquity of
the Jews and thus identified the Hyksos with the Hebrews of the Old
Testament. Most scholars do not now support this view, though it is
possible that Hebrews came into Egypt during the Hyksos period or
that some Hyksos were the ancestors of some Hebrews. "Hyksos" was
probably an Egyptian term for "rulers of foreign lands" (heqa-khase),
and it almost certainly designated the foreign dynasts rather than a
whole nation. Although traditionally they also formed the 16th
dynasty, those rulers were probably only vassals of the 15th-dynasty
kings. They seem to have been connected with the general migratory
movements elsewhere in the Middle East at the time. Although most of
the Hyksos names seem to have been Semitic, there may also have been
a Hurrian element among them.
The Hyksos introduced the horse and chariot, the compound bow,
improved battle axes, and advanced fortification techniques into
Egypt. At Avaris (modern Tall ad-Dab'a) in the northeastern delta,
they built their capital with a fortified camp over the remains of a
Middle Kingdom town that they had seized. Excavations since the
1960s have revealed a Canaanite-style temple, Palestinian-type
burials, including horse burials, Palestinian types of pottery, and
quantities of their superior weapons.
Their chief deity was the Egyptian storm and desert god, Seth, whom
they identified with an Asiatic storm god. From Avaris they ruled
most of Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt up to Hermopolis directly. South
to Cusae, and briefly even beyond, they ruled through Egyptian
vassals. When under Seqenenre and Kamose the Thebans began to rebel,
the Hyksos pharaoh Auserre Apopi I tried unsuccessfully to make an
alliance with the rulers of Cush who had overrun Egyptian Nubia in
the later years of the 13th dynasty (c. 1650 BC).
The Theban revolt spread northward under Kamose, and in about 1521 Avaris fell to his successor, Ahmose, founder of the 18th dynasty, thereby ending 108 years of Hyksos rule over Egypt. Although vilified by the Egyptians starting with Hatshepsut, the Hyksos had ruled as pharaohs and were listed as legitimate kings in the Turin Papyrus. At least superficially they were Egyptianized, and they did not interfere with Egyptian culture beyond the political sphere.
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