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Volume 7 issue 3 December 2006




This month’s NETFISHING continues its look at the history of Egypt by seeing what the World Wide Web has to say about The Second Intermediate Period and the Hyksos “invasion”, a period which often gets overshadowed when compared with the greatness and splendour of the New Kingdom.

It is possible that the last ruler of the Twelfth Dynasty, Queen Sobeknferu, may have married one of the kings who formed the succeeding Thirteenth Dynasty, but relatively little is know of this period and so we cannot be certain. For Queen Sobekneferu, refer to:

In any event there seems to have been a peaceful transition to the Thirteenth Dynasty, whose kings continued to rule from Itj-tawy in the Faiyum. This change from the Twelfth Dynasty to the Thirteenth marks the beginning of the period known to historians as the Second Intermediate Period. For an overview refer to: (Select History, then SIP or click here: and for a more detailed interpretation refer to:

The kings of the Thirteenth Dynasty do not appear to have had long reigns and so few had the chance to build impressive funerary monuments. One of the most famous burials, that of king Auib-Ra Hor, did, however, reveal an impressive wooden ka-statue, which is now in Cairo Museum; refer to: and

The majority of the Thirteenth Dynasty kings built their tombs at South Saqqara, although not all of them were able to build pyramid tombs. One who did manage to build a pyramid, a king Khendjer, used the advanced “sand method” of lowering the sealing block of the burial chamber into place by draining sand away from supporting wooden props. Refer to: and

Whilst the Thirteenth Dynasty were ruling from the Faiyum, another royal line was founded in the eastern Delta, known as the Fourteenth Dynasty. This was short-lived however, as a new force was to appear in the Delta, known to us today as the Hyksos. The name Hyksos was first used by the Egyptian priest/historian Manetho, who described their “invasion of Egypt”; refer to:

Although Manetho translated the word Hyksos as “Shepherd Kings”; a better title is perhaps “Desert Princes” (hikau-khoswet) or it is possible that Hyksos was actually an Egyptian term for “Rulers of Foreign Lands” (heqa-khase).

Many of the invaders’ burial traditions appear to be similar to those of the Middle Bronze Age II culture found in the Syro-Palestine area, so many authorities believe that the Hyksos originated from that region. This theory is supported by the paintings depicting people in Palestinian dress, labelled as “Rulers of Foreign Lands” in the Twelfth Dynasty tomb of Khnumhotep II at Beni Hassan. Refer to:

In addition, the Amada Stela of Amenhotep III lists “the Hyksos” alongside the Retenu (a general term for Palestinians) and so the Hyksos do appear to have been considered by the Egyptians as another ethnic group from Palestine. For a discussion of the origins of the Hyksos refer to:

The Hyksos appear to have formed a part of the great migratory movements that took place in the Middle East at this time, so their “invasion” (as the Egyptians term it) was merely a gradual infiltration of people into Egypt over a period of many years, rather than a great planned military conquest of Northern Egypt. Indeed the increasing number of Semitic names found in Egyptian documents towards the end of the Twelfth Dynasty tend to show that “foreigners” were finding their way into Egyptian service in increasing numbers. At the site of Avaris (modern Tell el-Dab’a) in the north-eastern Delta, the use of Canaanite pottery shows a marked increase towards the end of the Twelfth Dynasty, indicating that foreigners had already moved into the area. These people would thus be in situ and able to assume control of the Delta when the Twelfth Dynasty finally collapsed.

Although the Hyksos captured Memphis they preferred to rule from Avaris – refer to: (scroll down to Tell el-Dab’a) – from which they ruled over most of Lower Egypt and exercised control over Upper Egypt as far North as Hermopolis. Their palaces at Avaris were decorated with Minoan-style frescoes (depicting bull-leaping among other motifs) and more fresco fragments have been discovered at Avaris than at Knossos on Crete. The frescoes at Avaris appear to pre-date the Cretan examples, although they have all been thoroughly smashed to pieces, most probably during the Eighteenth Dynasty, when Egyptian forces, led by Theban kings, finally forced the Hyksos out of Egypt.

Victor Blunden

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