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Hyksos / Hykussos in hieroglyphics
S38 N29
X1 Z1

S38 N29
Aa1 M12 S29 X1

Heka-chaset / Heka-chasut
Ḥqȝ-ḫȝst / Ḥqȝ-ḫȝswt
rulers of foreign lands
Greek Hyxṓs (Ὑκσώς, Ὑξώς)

The Hyksos (correct translation: Hykussos in ancient Egyptian Heka-chaset, Heqa-chaset, Heka-chasut, Heqa-chasut, translated "rulers of foreign lands") were a group of foreign kings who ruled Egypt for about 108 years during the Second Intermediate Period . It ranged from the 13th to the end of the 17th dynasty. The times given vary somewhat, but Egyptologists generally go from around 1648–1550 BC. Chr. From. According to the Egyptian historian Manetho , the kings formed the 15th and 16th dynasties . Originally, the Egyptians used the term Hyksos to designate foreign rulers or nomad chiefs from Southwest Asia , which later became an official title of king.

The Roman - Jewish historian Flavius ​​Josephus , quoting Manetho, described the Hyksos as ruthless invaders who burned down the Egyptian cities and destroyed the temples, as well as suppressing and enslaving the local population. Josephus' depiction, which was made 1,600 years after the Hyksos came to power in Egypt, is controversial and has long caused confusion about its origin and development. Archaeological investigations of the last decades in Tell el-Dab'a , the Hyksos capital Auaris , and in Wadi Tumilat have contributed to a much better understanding of the Hyksos culture.


Early representation of Hyksos from the 12th dynasty in the tomb of Khnumhotep II in Beni Hassan

Flavius ​​Josephus is narrated in the writings of Eusebius . The common name commonly used today by immigrant foreign rulers is "Hyksos". However, this tradition arose from a misreading. In " Contra Apionem " Josephus explains the name spelling:

82  All their people were called Hykussos , that is, shepherd-kings. Hyk means 'king' in the priestly language, usos 'shepherd' and 'shepherd' in the vernacular, and when you put it together it becomes Hykussos . "

- Eusebius version: Josephus "contra Apionem", book 1, 82

The term "shepherd-kings" is unknown in the ancient Egyptian language. The Greek name "Hykussos / Hyksos" is derived from the ancient Egyptian title "ruler of foreign countries". Josephus established the reference to "Shepherd-Kings" in order to establish a kinship between the Israelites and the "Hykussos / Hyksos".

In ancient Egyptian the terms for rule , ancient Egyptian: heqa (ḥq3) , and magic , ancient Egyptian: heka (ḥk3) are very similar. In fact, the connection between rule and magic in ancient Egypt is well documented and can also be seen from the above-mentioned alternative spellings for Heka-chaset (Heqa-chaset, Heka-chasut, Heqa-chasut) .


The Hyksos can be found in sites of the Syrian-Palestinian Middle Bronze Age culture (MB IIa). In Egypt, the finds are limited to areas along the Pelusian arm of the Nile in the eastern Nile Delta, but the area of ​​influence of the Hyksos also extended to Neferusi and Hermopolis in Central Egypt .

By far the most important site is Tell el-Dab'a (Auaris), here was the residence of the 15th dynasty with its own palaces and temples, extensive tombs and a large number of residential buildings. The city has been researched since 1966 by the Austrian Archaeological Institute and the Archaeological Institute of the University of Vienna under the direction of Manfred Bietak .

Other important sites can be found in Tell el-Maschuta , in Tell el-Yahudiya , which had an important strategic function, in Tell el-Sahaba at the eastern exit of Wadi Tumilat , and in Tell Farasha , Inshas , Bubastis and Ghita .

Most of the finds are pottery , bronzes and stone utensils, with ceramics being the most important source for the reconstruction of material culture. Animal bones, human bones and botanical remains, on the other hand, provide information about the environment and living conditions of the population.

In the remaining parts of Egypt outside of the Eastern Delta there are no finds, but this does not have to mean a power vacuum, since these areas can also have been ruled by garrisons or indirectly via the vassal system.

Origin and seizure of power

Hurrian Kingdom around 2300 BC Chr. (Purple)
Settlement area of ​​the Canaanites and approximate extent of the land known as Canaan / Kinaḫḫu around 1300 BC. Chr.
Egypt at the time of the Second Intermediate Period

An examination of the proper names of the Hyksos kings from the 15th dynasty showed that these come predominantly from the Western Semitic-speaking area, and that some of them are of Hurrian origin. Accordingly, it is among the Hyksos to the Amorites or Canaanites , maybe members of the People of the Hurrians . Found grave goods such as daggers or battle axes from the late phase suggest a warlike people.

After a prolonged heyday during the Middle Kingdom , the Egyptian state was clearly weakened towards the end of this period. There were unstable, constantly changing governments, a growing independence of the Gau princes and the emergence of small, weak city kingdoms in the delta. At the same time, two major Syrian-Palestinian migration phases began in the northeastern Nile Delta. The first wave of immigration took place before the end of the 13th dynasty . Layers of fire in several sites in the eastern delta indicate that there must have been a violent, military conquest.

In Tell el-Dab'a an increasing settlement by Amorites and Canaanites can be observed during the 13th dynasty, which indicates a second wave of immigration. The establishment of the Hyksos rule came from Auaris and did not take place until the end of this second phase, probably supported by the local Asian population. Auaris was built as a new trade and military base in the northeast delta in the Middle Kingdom. In addition, the Egyptian royal family had soldiers, sailors, shipbuilders and workers from the Levant settle there. Papyri from Lahun and archaeological traces near Lischt show that a comparable settlement existed near Itj-taui , the Egyptian capital of the 12th Dynasty. According to a theory by Manfred Bietak , the Hyksos are said to have been supported by blood relatives in the royal residence when they came to power.

The Hyksos kings


The Hyksos are mentioned in the Turin King List in column 10, lines 15 to 21

The order and name assignments of the Hyksos kings are not completely guaranteed. Manetho names the six kings Salitis, Bêôn, Apachnas, Iannas, Apôphis and Assis and assigns them a comparatively long reign of 259 years and 10 months.

Numerous names of the Hyksos kings are recorded on scarabs and seals. In research, however, it turns out to be difficult to relate these to the royal names modified by Manetho.

An important list of kings is the Turin royal papyrus, written in the 19th dynasty , on which six rulers are also specified, but with a total reign of 108 years. The kings of the 15th Dynasty are the only rulers on the entire list that do not bear the title of King of Upper and Lower Egypt , but are listed as rulers of foreign lands ( heqa-chasut ). Due to the fragmentary condition, only the name of the last ruler Chalmudi has survived.


The first Hyksos king Salitis was crowned in Memphis , but according to Manetho he used Auaris as a power base. There is also inscribed evidence of Hyksos fortresses at Neferusi in Middle Egypt and at Gebelein south of Luxor . From Egyptian texts, in particular two stelae of King Kamose and the Carnarvon tablet , and later sources such as the Sallier I papyrus, it emerges that at the same time as the 15th dynasty other dynasties existed besides the Hyksos and served as their vassals . Contemporary dynasties include the 17th dynasty in Thebes and local clan heads in Middle Egypt. The kings of Manethos' 16th dynasty, also Hyksos, resided in Sharuhe and controlled a small kingdom in southern Palestine. The 16th dynasty may even be considered a sub-dynasty of the 15th. Other small local Hyksos dynasties were found in coastal fortresses and in northern Palestine, for example at the Tel Kabri site . The rest of Palestine was politically independent. The enormous fortifications in major Palestinian cities during the latter part of this period indicate potential tensions with the Hyksos.

Numerous scarabs with the first name Maa-ib-Re and others with the name Sheschi were found , probably one and the same king. The wide distribution of these scarabs, from Kerma in Upper Nubia to the south coast in the Levant, suggests an important Hyksos ruler. However, there is no major monument to this king.

A few years ago the name was an important ruler on a limestone - lintel discovered from the Hyksos fortress at Tell el-Dab'a. The inscription on the block bears the official title of a Hyksos king and the Western Semitic name Seker Her or Sikru Haddu - a theophoric name associated with the Syrian storm god Haddu .

Judging by the frequency of the inscriptions of the Hyksos king Chajan , this must have been of particular importance. The lid of a Salbgefäßes of Alabaster with Chajans name was in the palace of Knossos on Crete found and a fragment of another inscribed with his name Salbgefäßes in the Hittite capital Hattusa . Both finds were probably diplomatic gifts to the two most important courts in the Eastern Mediterranean at the time. What is uncertain, however, is the origin of a basalt lion bearing the king's name , which was purchased in Baghdad .

Like some brief kings of the 13th Dynasty, Chajan usurped statues of kings from the Middle Kingdom. Many statues were taken to Auaris to equip temples and royal buildings there. A stele of one of his sons was discovered in Tell el-Dab'a. This can probably be identified with the Hyksos king Iannas , who is known from Manetho's list of kings.

According to the Turin royal papyrus, King Aa-user-Re Apophis I ruled for about forty years until the end of the Hyksos dynasty , of whom two other first names have been preserved. During his reign, Egyptian science flourished: in the 33rd year of his reign, the Rhind papyrus was an important mathematical treatise.


Although “Hyksos” in the narrower sense only refers to the rulers of the 15th Dynasty, the term is also used for parts of the population of Asian descent who lived in the areas controlled by the kings of that time, especially in Auaris, where a large one Part of the population from the late Middle Kingdom to the end of the 2nd Intermediate Period was of non-Egyptian origin. Studies have shown that there are close parallels to the Iron Age population of Kumidi in the Bekaa Plain . In addition, a strong anthropological difference between men and women could be determined, which suggests that the female part of the population comes from a different region. This is particularly typical of peoples who are largely made up of soldiers and sailors .

economy and trade

The Hyksos maintained lively trade relations with neighboring countries. Important connections existed to the Levant, to southern Palestine, Cyprus and the city of Sharuhe, which was considered an important Hyksos base outside of Egypt. The capital Auaris acted as an important trading base and port on the eastern Mediterranean. There, Cypriot ceramics in particular appear increasingly, which indicates close trade contacts with the Mediterranean island, and Tell-el-Yahudiya goods made from Egyptian clay were also discovered in Cyprus at this time. The adoption of Cypriot pottery techniques in Auaris suggests Manfred Bietak even that residents from Cyprus immigrated to the Nile Delta. The appearance of so-called Late Cypriot pottery indicates increasing trade with Cyprus in the late Hyksos period.

There was also trade between the Hyksos Empire and the rest of Egypt. Olive oil and wine imported from southern Palestine were shipped south along the Nile. The Hyksos received part of their income from the tributes of their vassal states, which received economic benefits, such as grazing rights in the delta.

Another close trading partner was the Kingdom of Kush . In Kerma and tombs of the Kerma culture in Nubia was Leontopolis ceramics found, also Egyptian bichrome ceramics and Hyksos seal.

In the later Hyksos period, trade with Syria subsided, likely due to the decline of the Syrian city-states during this period.


The culture of the Hyksos is characterized by certain Syrian-Palestinian traditions, which were mainly retained in the early days. Characteristic are, for example, their own sacred architecture , donkey burials or the construction of graves in the settlement area. Over time, an intensified Egyptization set in, which led to the abandonment of their own Asian customs during the later phase. The Hyksos kings adopted many of the practices of Egyptian pharaohs . Not only was the usurpation of royal statues or the use of scarabs imitated, but the Egyptian royal stature was also adopted and Egyptian gods such as Seth , Re and Sobek were worshiped. The adoption of Egyptian cultural components was probably necessary in order to legitimize oneself as Egyptian ruler.


At the time of the late Middle Kingdom, the deity Baal-Zaphon immigrated to the delta. Equated with the Egyptian god Seth, she developed into the main deity of the Hyksos during the 15th Dynasty. Seth was represented with Asian attributes until the Ramesside period . Thanks to the four-century stele , the cult of Seth from Auaris can be dated back to the 14th dynasty. The Asian gods Anat , Reschef and Hadad , who have been handed down as theophoric personal names , were also venerated . In addition to Seth, the belief in other Egyptian gods such as Re or Sobek was maintained, for whom a separate cult could be proven. The fact that the ancient Egyptian gods were not despised is also expressed in the fact that the kings retained the titles of Horus and son of Re .

The offerings for the temples consisted primarily of burnt bones from sacrificial cattle and smashed cult ceramics. As a typical custom of its own, donkeys in pairs are sacrificed in front of the temple. In Auaris, the new custom of throwing the remains of sacrificial meals into huge pits was imported, which appears in the northern Levant from the middle of the 15th dynasty. Some of these cults were sporadically continued after the Hyksos period.

Funerary cult

The grave cult reveals both Asian and Egyptian customs. Donkey burials, the construction of graves directly in the settlement area and the burial of servants are non-Egyptian . On the other hand, the construction of grave chapels and the addition of grave goods in the form of drinking vessels, dinnerware , jewelry , clothing, weapons and cosmetics (ointment vessels, make-up pots) clearly correspond to Egyptian tradition . Most of the children were buried in Canaitic amphorae. The most common grave forms (stratum F) are chamber graves with single and double brick vaults, which in Egypt are only proven in the eastern Nile Delta.

A clear development can be seen in the layout and shape of the grave structures. During the 13th Dynasty (Stratum G), the graves were still within the residential complexes. Donkey burials and the addition of Bronze Age ceramics and weapons were typical. The dead were buried in a semi-contracted position. Bronze and silver robe pins found suggest that the dead were likely wrapped in traditional Asian costumes. Men were mostly buried with daggers and battle axes , which suggests a high proportion of warriors in the population.

In Stratum F (late 13th Dynasty) family and clan cemeteries were set up outside the settlement. For a short time, the grave owners are buried with servants aged 12 to 16. The servant burials have parallels in the Nubian Kerma culture and can be traced back to the 3rd millennium in the Mesopotamian Diyala region.

Real Egyptian burials no longer occur, but a mixture of Egyptian and Syrian-Palestinian burial objects can be observed. The typical grave goods now include cosmetic vessels , coal pots and Asian and Egyptian ceramics in equal proportions.

Donkey burials are represented from the late 12th dynasty to the middle Hyksos period. They were preferably done in pairs in the entrance area and indicate a high position of the grave owner. The significance and purpose of the donkeys for the population has not been clearly established; they may have served as pack animals on expeditions . The tradition of donkey burials occurs only in the delta. In addition to Tell el-Daba, it can also be seen in Tell el-Maschuta and Inshas. It originated in Mesopotamia , from where it reached Egypt via the Levant. Outside Egypt, she also appears in Tell el-Ajjul, Tell Harror , Jericho and Lachish .

Between 1680 and 1650, sacrificial pits with cult ceramics appear as a non-Egyptian custom. In the 15th dynasty, the graves were moved back to the settlement due to high population growth and lack of space and are now mostly under the floor of the houses. The graves under the floors come from a Mesopotamian tradition, but can also be observed in Palestine. In the late Hyksos period, shaft graves were built . When the house was being built, a single or double crypt was planned, which often accommodated 1 to 3, occasionally 4 to 5 people. Some family graves were intended for up to 10 people. Most of the grave goods at this time were of Egyptian origin, but there are also isolated TY goods.


Dagger with the name of King Apophis
(Cairo Egyptian Museum)

The weapons of the Hyksos have been preserved mainly in the form of grave goods. Typical war implements include battle axes, throwing spears , spout lances and daggers. Asian Bedouins carried Entenschnabeläxte and Tüllenlanzen of already in the grave Khnumhotep II. In Beni Hassan displayed. The earliest discovery of a sickle sword in Egypt could be made in Stratum F , which was used as a weapon as early as 1800 BC. Occurs in princely graves in Byblos .

In the 13th Dynasty, the Hyksos were already using improved metal technology, which was achieved through imported two-shell models made of soapstone . Previously, only single-shell models made of limestone or ceramic were used. The new technology was adopted in the New Kingdom and resulted in advanced Egyptian metalworking.

The introduction of horses and chariots in Egypt, ascribed to the Hyksos, was confirmed by grave finds, for example horse skeletons were discovered in Auaris. Chariots and horses are also documented in text in the 17th dynasty. In pictorial representations on reliefs in the Ahmose Temple of Abydos , which were only discovered by Stephen Harvey in 1993, these are already used by the Ahmosids in the fight against the Hyksos.

Visual arts

Only a few testimonies have come down to us that suggest that the Hyksos had their own artistic style. Mostly royal statues and sphinxes from the Middle Kingdom were re-used and re-labeled, whereas there are no traces for the production of own sculptures. During the later phase, the Hyksos art was influenced by an Egyptization process, which was expressed in the adoption of many Egyptian style elements.

A popular motif in the stone sculpture could possibly have been the lion . For example, a small limestone lion was discovered in Auaris and a small granite lion appeared in Baghdad , which was reworked under Chajan from a maned sphinx from the Middle Kingdom. Lion and Sphinx can also be found in the field of small art of the Hyksos period, which mainly concentrated on the manufacture of scarabs. The finds are not limited to Egypt, but can also be observed in Syria and Palestine.

The scarabs show a mixture of Syrian-Palestinian and Egyptian motifs that were adopted from the Middle Kingdom. Three fundamental innovations can be observed in the scarabs. The most striking feature are the “Hyksos sides”: Scarabs with royal names have a three-parted seal area, the middle column usually bears an inscription, while the side gussets are symbolic. Another special feature is the so-called amra group, in which the hieroglyphs in the form of arm, waterline and mouth appear in different sequences, but their exact meaning is still unclear. In the later phase, figurative representations are added, frequent motifs are now falcon-headed people, uraeus snakes , crocodiles, scarabs, branches and lotus flowers , hathor heads and frontal representations of naked Syrian deities.


Traces of architectural evidence can be found especially in Auaris. The wide-space temple is a typical design in the field of sacred architecture . The architectural style of a memorial temple discovered in Auaris was in the tradition of the Middle Kingdom and featured both Asian and Egyptian elements.

In the area of ​​settlement architecture, houses with a snail floor plan and with warrior graves in courtyards are predominant, later - before the end of the Hyksos period - typical Egyptian houses with a three-part floor plan appear.

Technical achievements

The Hyksos brought important technical achievements such as the horse and the chariot to Egypt. They introduced new technologies for making ceramics such as the spinning potter's wheel .

Advances in metalworking have also led to new weapons such as composite bows and sickle swords . B. could be proven in Tell el-Daba. The pharaohs of the New Kingdom benefited not least from their well-developed trade network in the eastern Mediterranean.

Expulsion from Egypt

The expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt began under King Kamose , one of the last rulers of the 17th Dynasty . Kamose came from the Theban ruling family of the Ahmosids and was a contemporary of the Hyksos king Apophis. From two contemporary monuments, the so-called Kamose steles, it is known how Kamose and his troops advanced to the Hyksos capital Auaris. Kamose's people intercepted a message to the King of Kush ( Kerma culture , Sudan ) , who was allied with the Hyksos, and thus prevented Upper Egypt from being occupied by Kushite troops during Kamose's absence. The siege of Auaris was not completed, Kamose withdrew and probably died that same year. His successor, Ahmose, was around five years old to be able to continue his predecessor's campaign.

When Ahmose came of age, he continued his father's fight and attacked the Hyksos again. Between his 15th and 18th year in reign he took Memphis and then probably besieged Auaris for a long time. According to Josephus, desperate trying to take the city, the Egyptians negotiated with the Hyksos to withdraw their people into Palestine. In Auaris, no archaeological layer could be discovered that would indicate destruction by a major fire, for example. There is only evidence of destruction in the area of ​​the citadel , where a highly developed defense system was discovered a few years ago. Ahmose pursued the Hyksos as far as southern Palestine and, after three years of siege, destroyed the second largest of the Hyksos fortresses, Sharuhe, seven kilometers south of Gaza .

The Hyksos in the memory of the ancient Egyptians

In retrospect, since the Hyksos were a foreign dynasty in Egypt, they were considered unpopular. An inscription by Queen Hatshepsut in Speos Artemidos near Beni Hassan says that the Hyksos ruled "without Re " and that during their time they left the shrines neglected and dilapidated. In later times (Manetho, Josephus) the memory of their presence in Egypt turned out to be far worse.

An explanation for the bad reputation of the Hyksos is provided by a large number of mostly private statues from the Middle Kingdom that were found in the Levant and on Crete. Other statues were also found in Kerma, the capital of the Nubian Kush Empire. The Hyksos plundered Egyptian temples and tombs and made a profit from trading in the captured statues. Most of the usurped royal statues were brought to Auaris and later to Pi-Ramesse , the capital of the 19th dynasty. In the 21st and 22nd dynasties , the statues came to the new capital Tanis . The adoption of a large number of statues could explain why the Hyksos never developed their own court art.

See also


  • Folker Siegert (ed.): Flavius ​​Josephus: About the originality of Judaism. (Contra Apionem). Two volumes (= writings of the Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum. Volume 6, 1–2). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-525-54206-4 .
  • Kurt Sethe : New traces of the Hyksos in inscriptions of the 18th dynasty . In: Georg Steindorff (Hrsg.): Journal for Egyptian language and antiquity . Forty-seventh volume. Hinrichs'sche Buchhandlung, Leipzig 1910, p. 73–86 ( digitized version [accessed April 12, 2016]).
  • Max Burchardt : To the race of the Hyksos . In: Georg Steindorff (Hrsg.): Journal for Egyptian language and antiquity . Fiftieth volume. Hinrichs'sche Buchhandlung, Leipzig 1912, p. 6–8 ( digitized version [accessed April 12, 2016]).
  • Manfred Bietak : Hyksos. In: Wolfgang Helck (Hrsg.): Lexikon der Ägyptologie (LÄ). Volume III, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1980, ISBN 3-447-02100-4 , Sp. 93-103.
  • Donald B. Redford : Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1992, ISBN 0-691-03606-3 .
  • Manfred Bietak : Avaris. The Capital of the Hyksos. Recent Excavations at Tell el-Dab'a (= The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation distinguished lecture in Egyptology. Volume 1). British Museum Press, London 1996, ISBN 0-7141-0968-1 .
  • Eliezer D. Oren (Ed.): The Hyksos. New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives. (= University of Pennsylvania. Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. University Museum Monograph. Volume 96 = University Museum Symposium Series. Volume 8). Proceedings of the International Seminar on Cultural Interconnections in the Ancient Near East, held for 16 consecutive Weeks at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology during the Spring Term, January - April 1992. University of Pennsylvania - University Museum, Philadelphia PA 1997, ISBN 0-924171-46-4 .
  • Manfred Bietak: Hyksos. In: Kathryn A. Bard (Ed.): Encyclopedia of the Archeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge, London 1999, ISBN 0-415-18589-0 , pp. 377-79.
  • Gerald P. Verbrugghe, John M. Wickersham: Berossos and Manetho, introduced and translated. Native traditions in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor MI 2000, ISBN 0-472-08687-1 .
  • Israel Finkelstein , Neil Asher Silberman : No Trumpets Before Jericho. The Archaeological Truth About the Bible. Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-49321-1 .
  • Julia Budka: The culture of the Hyksos based on their material legacy. In: Kemet. Issue 2/2003, pp. 13-20 ( digitized version ).
  • Charlotte Booth: The Hyksos Period in Egypt (= Shire Egyptology. Volume 27). Shire, Princes Risborough 2005, ISBN 0-7478-0638-1 .
  • Joachim Willeitner: horse and rider. In: Adventure archeology . Issue 3, 2007, ISSN  1612-9954 , p. 48 ff.

Web links

Commons : Hyksos  - collection of images, videos and audio files


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