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.
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