Who were the Hyksos?

The end of the Middle Kingdom marks the period’s decline, a time of decentralization of political rule. With this breakdown came an increase in immigration, and one important group that had an influence of Egyptian life was the Hyksos. Manetho was the first to refer to these people using the Greek term, which is incorrectly translated as “shepherd kings.” The Egyptians referred to them as hikau-khausut, or “rulers of foreign countries.” Although we do not know their definite origin, they most likely came from Western Asia, perhaps Syria or Palestine.

In the opinion of Manetho, they had a very negative impact on the Egyptians but from archaeological evidence, it appears that they made very useful contributions. Some believe that they first introduced the horse-drawn chariot but this is debatable due to the lack of solid archaeological evidence. They may have also shared their skills in bronze-working, the production of pottery, and weaving, as well as unique music styles and various instruments. Egypt is sometimes referred to as lagging behind in some cultural respects, and the Hyksos may have helped push the Egyptians forward.

Not only did they bring cultural traits with them to Egypt but they also took ideas from the Egyptians. There was a slight mixing in their religions as the Hyksos adopted the god Seth while contributing Astarte and Rashef to the Egyptian repertoire. Reshef was the god of war and thunder. He is portrayed holding a battle-axe, a spear and a shield. He fathered Min, the god of fertility, and his wife was Itum. Memphis is the site of his temple, where he was worshiped mainly by immigrants. Astarte, the goddess of fertility, beauty, war and love, was often identified with Isis and Hathor. Although she was revered by the Hyksos and similarly by the Egyptians, she was kept ‘alive’ and important by the Phoenicians, who built temples devoted to her in Cyprus.

Although they may have not welcomed immigration entirely, we now see through archaeological evidence and preserved records that the Hyksos had a positive impact on the cultural advancement and productivity of Egypt from the end of the Middle Kingdom to the Second Intermediate period and beyond. As written in Who Were the Hyksos?, “until the Hyksos invasion, the history of Egypt and Asia were mostly isolated, while afterwards, they would be permanently entwined. The Hyksos brought more than weapons to Egypt…”; they brought with them a whole bundle of ideas, and without them, they may have only have been worse off.

 

Sources:

Dunn, J. Who Were the Hyksos, (n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/hyksos.htm

Kjeilen, T. Hyksos, (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://i-cias.com/e.o/hyksos.htm

Kjeilen, T. Reshef, (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://i-cias.com/e.o/reshef.htm

Stuckey, J. Goddess in the Spotlight, (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.matrifocus.com/IMB04/spotlight.htm

5 thoughts on “Who were the Hyksos?

  1. Amanda, I’m really glad you wrote about the Hyksos for this week’s post. During this week’s lectures and readings I was very fascinated in their role as immigrants, invading Ancient Egypt. I thought that the information you obtained and posted was pretty straightforward. It’s interesting to me that a group such as the Hyksos could have such an influence on a civilization, such as the Egyptians. When I think of ancient Egypt, I think pyramids, cataracts, mummies and pharaohs. I don’t really imagine immigrants swarming in and having a huge influential twist on the Egyptian society. I find it interesting though that you didn’t really elaborate more on their contributions pertaining with military technology, though the article you headlined in your sources did. From what the article you cited, Who were the Hyksos?, I was able to re-read a little bit more about their culture and how they impacted Egyptian culture. From the article I digressed that they made Egypt a stronger country, with a much more viable military. Egypt had the ability to isolate itself from the outside world, cultural and technological growth was often stationary. Until the Hyksos invasion, the history of Egypt and Asia were most isolated. Hmm, I wonder if we are able to see this happen anywhere else throughout history.

  2. Thank you for your elaboration on who the Hyksos were, as their presence stuck out to me as well. It is interesting how you mention that Egypt seemed rather “left-behind” in terms of modernization, because that is essentially how I have envisioned the course of Egyptian history until recently. What I mean is, everyone is familiar with the pyramids, and obviously Egypt still exists today, so it is almost odd (though naive) to think that somewhere in between those times technology like the horse and chariot were introduced. The fact that Egypt may have been a little bit stuck in the past and these technologies are potentially credited to the Hyksos makes me visualize their existence as some sort of “big brother”. This is also due to the fact that they did not take over Egypt in some sort of invasion or anything – they just kind of gradually trickled in. In contrast to the constant need to conquer the Nubians that ancient Egyptians seemed to have, this contributes to the “big brother” image. (Though the Hyksos can hardly be called some ‘bigger’ influential force – they were just “shepherd kings” after all.) Of course the traditionally isolationist Egyptians were not thrilled about their presence, but the Hyksos sure seemed to have a lot to offer and brought many benefits. I like them.

  3. I was also very intrigued to learn more about the foreign immigrants referred to as Hyksos. Upon looking at tour Egypt website I found out much more than I originally knew about these people. Like many other countries immigration is a controversial topic in regards to whether or not it is beneficial. I think that immigration will occur when ever there is a prosperous city or state present. During the Old Kingdom there were all mighty Pharaohs that ruled and the country was not unified. Along with the unification and disintegration of the Pharaohs Egypt became a more appealing place for many to live. During the Middle Kingdom the Kings that ruled represented a more peaceful time which brought in foreign citizens to establish a residence in. From much of the archeological evidence it appears that the Hyksos brought items and traditions from their own cultures. With the presence of multiple cultures Egypt was a Cosmopolitan. Although there were the added benefits to the presence of new foreign cultures it is clear that this did not bring together Egyptians and Hyksos . The Hyksos did incorporate some Egyptian traditions but the dislike the Egyptians had for these foreigners would eventually win out. This caused many Hyksos to migrate to Northern Egypt and after that they actually became stronger and took over many parts of Egypt.
    Source
    Dunn, J. Who Were the Hyksos, (n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/hyksos.htm

  4. Amanda, shortly after posting my blog, I read the few that were posted earlier, and I could not help but think that this was a great idea for a post. I had not given it too much thought in depth as to who the Hyksos really were. One thing that is particularly interesting to me is that the Hyksos have no definitive origin, however when you go on to talk about the archaeological evidence of the great contributions that they had made to Egyptian life [bronze-working, horse-drawn chariots, weaving, etc.] these are also things that sound classic Greco-Roman. Wherever the origin, I would have to agree with you that the Hyksos presence in the Egyptian state appears to be more beneficial than not as they appeared to help both material and religious aspects of the Egyptian culture. I am also curious as to why Manetho deemed the Hyksos as having a negative impact on the Egyptian people. Perhaps the Egyptians wanted to have a culture purely of their own that had not been influenced by outside civilizations, but from the archaeological evidence that you addressed it appears that the majority of the influence was a positive one that the Hyksos had on the Egyptian people.

  5. In response to your post about the Hyksos, I believe that your discussion was very well written because of the thoroughness and informative details and opinions that you provided to the reader. For example, the introduction you provided for your post did a good job of letting the reader know about the Middle Kingdom time period and how the political rule was in a time of decentralization of political rule when the Hyksos had a significant influence on Egyptian life due to increased frequency and rates of immigration.
    Also, I think you did a good job on the section of your post about how the Hyksos brought and took cultural traits and ideas through Egyptian boundaries. The fact that these two at one time, separate, cultures became joint though the Hyksos adapting and “evolving”, so to speak, their religion to include the god Seth and contributing to the Egyptian’s religious belief by introducing the gods Astarte and Rashef is definitely significant. I believe that the melding of these two people’s religious belief goes to show you that the two cultures frequently and constantly interacted and valued the other’s lifestyle and religion so much that they approved of including new ideas in their respective cultures. An example of a culture that had a much more closed mind and would never alter their religion to the tune of a foreign culture is old world Asia. Finally, I believe that the African Americans accepting Christianity from European culture is similar to the Hyksos accepting a new god from the Egyptians.

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