Who were the Hyksos

New traces of the enigmatic Hyksos people found in Egypt

Vienna (Austria) - There were not only glamorous moments in the history of ancient Egypt: In the 17th century BC, Egypt became dependent on a foreign dynasty from the Near East, the Hyksos, about which little is known so far. Now Austrian researchers have discovered the oldest cuneiform tablet ever found in Egypt near an old Hyksos palace. They also found the remains of a horse mare buried in an old Hyksos palace. These finds can provide valuable information about the mysterious foreign dynasty in the land of the pharaohs.

The Hyksos conquered all of Egypt from the northeastern Nile Delta in the 17th century and were able to stay in Egypt for around a century. Then they were defeated by the Egyptians. Auaris, the capital of the Hyksos, discovered Manfred Bietak from the University of Vienna and colleagues in 1966 on a hill of ruins called Tell el-Dab'a in northeast Egypt. In 2005, the researchers finally found an extensive palace area from the Hyksos period. In the spring of this year they discovered a Babylonian cuneiform tablet from the last decades of the Old Babylonian Empire. This cuneiform tablet "documents the unexpectedly extensive diplomatic relations of the Hyksos dynasty," explains Bietak. The buried horse mare also provides information about the life of the Hyksos: the researchers suspect that it was the favorite animal of the ruler of the Hyksos. At the same time, it is the oldest horse burial in Egypt to date.

The origin of the Hyksos is controversial. It is relatively certain that they came from the Middle East. Presumably it was mostly Amurrites as well as other tribes from Canaan and today's Syrian-Lebanese coastal areas. The Hyksos brought the chariot fighting technique with them. And the Egyptians took over the vocabulary from them, which was connected with horses, which were obviously the great passion of the Hyksos, as also suggests the buried horse mare. They also added Reshef and Astarte to the Egyptian circle of gods - both protective deities of horses.

Around 1532 BC the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt by Pharaoh Ahmose. When the Hyksos tried to form an alliance with the Kerma in Nubia, the Egyptians intercepted a suitably equipped messenger from the Egyptians on his journey across the oases of the Libyan desert. Then Ahmose succeeded in a surprise attack on the delta. The Egyptians hardly thought about the hundred-year-old Hyksos episode later in their historiography.

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source: University of Vienna