Hyksos - Was There A Hyksos Invasion?

Was There A Hyksos Invasion?

Manetho's account, as recorded by Josephus, of the appearance of the Hyksos in Egypt describes it as an armed invasion by a horde of foreign barbarians who met little resistance and who subdued the country by military force. He records that the Hyksos burnt their cities, destroyed temples and led women and children into slavery.

It has been claimed, that new revolutionary methods of warfare ensured the Hyksos the ascendancy in their influx into the new emporia being established in Egypt's delta and at Thebes in support of the Red Sea trade. Herbert E. Winlock describes new military hardware, such as the composite bow, as well as the improved recurve bow and most importantly the horse-drawn war chariot, as well as improved arrowheads, various kinds of swords and daggers, a new type of shield, mailed shirts, and the metal helmet.

In the last decades the idea of a simple migration, with little or no violence involved, has gained support. Under this theory, the Egyptian rulers of 13th Dynasty were too weak to stop these new migrants from travelling to Egypt from Asia and were preoccupied by struggling to cope with domestic famine and plague. Even before that, Amenemhat III carried out extensive building works and mining and Gae Callender notes that "the large intake of Asiatics, which seems to have occurred partly in order to subsidize the extensive building work, may have encouraged the so-called Hyksos to settle in the Delta, thus leading eventually to the collapse of native Egyptian rule."

By around 1700 BC (just over a hundred years later), Egypt was fragmenting politically with local kingdoms springing up in the northeastern Delta area. One of these was that of King Nehesy, whose capital was at Avaris and he ruled over a population consisting largely of Syro-Palestinians who had settled in the area during the 12th Dynasty and who were probably mainly soldiers, sailors, shipbuilders and workmen. His dynasty was probably replaced by a West-Semitic speaking Syro-Palestinian dynasty that formed the basis of the later Hyksos kingdom, which was able to spread southwards because of the unstable political situation, aided by "an army, ships, and foreign connections."

Josephus, quoting from the work of the historian Manetho, described more of an Egyptian assimilation to the corrupt ways of the emporia, followed by rebellion of those who wished to continue to live the life in Ma'at, than any kind of military struggle.

By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow; and having overpowered the rulers of the land, they then burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of gods… Finally, they appointed as king one of their number whose name was Salitis. He had his seat at Memphis, levying tribute from Upper and Lower Egypt and always leaving garrisons behind in the most advantageous positions

The ceramic evidence in the Memphis-Fayum region of Lower Egypt argues against the presence of new invading foreigners. Janine Bourriau's excavation in Memphis of ceramic material retrieved from Lisht and Dahshur during the Second Intermediate Period shows a continuity of Middle Kingdom ceramic type wares throughout this era. She finds in them no evidence of intrusion of Hyksos-style wares. Bourriau's evidence strongly suggests that the traditional Egyptian view, long espoused by Manetho, that the Hyksos invaded and sacked the Memphite region and imposed their authority there, is fictitious.

Not until the beginning of the Theban wars of liberation during the 17th Dynasty are Theban wares again found in the Fayum-Memphis region. Some texts indicate that while the Hyksos controlled the Delta region administratively the Thebans were too busy mining gold and making money off the Red Sea trade to care. Lower Egypt and Thebes functioned autonomously and shared limited contact with each other.

Bourriau argues that Manetho's description of Hyksos rule is confirmed by the evidence in the Kamose texts that Kamose rejected vassal status, the strict control of the border at Cusae, the imposition of taxes on all Nile traffic and the existence of garrisons of Asiatics led by Egyptian commanders.

By the Thirteenth dynasty of Egypt, the foreign warlords had taken the name of Pharaoh for themselves and then began to fight over it. Some argued there was no need to pay tribute homage or obedience to a weak king, and that began to cause problems.

Supporters of the peaceful takeover of Egypt claim that there is little evidence of battles or wars in general in this period. They also maintain that the chariot didn't play any relevant role, e.g. no traces of chariots have been found at the Hyksos capital of Avaris despite extensive excavation.

As the chariot became an important weapon of the nobles and kings of that period, it became a symbol of power throughout Eurasia, Mycenaean Greece, India, Mesopotamia, Eastern Europe and China. Kings were portrayed on chariots, went to war in chariots and were buried in chariots. Skill in the use of mathematicsand well organized competent administration, the real power of the Hyksos, was less quickly appreciated by their rivals.

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