A vase in the shape of a man’s head found during Garstang’s excavations in Jericho and ascribed to a people called the Hyksos, which conquered Palestine and Egypt in the 18th century BCE.

Landay, Jerry M., Silent Cities Sacred Stones; Archaeological discovery in Israel. New York- MCall Publishing Company, 1971.

Something incredible and frightful befell the Nile country about 1730 B.C. Suddenly, like bolt from the blue, warriors in chariots drove into the country like arrows shot from a bow, endless columns of them in clouds of dust. Day and night horses’ hooves thundered past the frontier posts, rang through city streets, temple squares and the majestic court of Pharaoh’s palaces. Even before the Egyptians realized it, it had happened- their country was taken by surprise, overrun and vanquished. The giant of Nile who never before in the history had seen foreign conquerors, lay bound and prostrate.

The rule of the victors began with a bloodbath. The Hyksos, Semic tribes from Canaan and Syria, knew no pity. With the fateful years 1730 B.C. the thirteen hundred year rule of the dynasties came to an abrupt end. The Middle Kingdom of the Pharaohs was shattered under the onslaught of these Asian peoples, the “rulers of foreign lands.” That is the meaning of the name Hyksos. The memory of the political disaster remained alive among the Nile people, as a striking description by the Egyptian historian Manetho testified- “We had a king called Tutimaeus. In his reign, it happened, I do not know why the God was displeased with us. Unexpectedly from the regions of the East, came men of unknown race. Confident of victory they marched against our land. By force they took it, easily, without a single battle. Having overpowered our rulers they burned our cities without compassion, and destroyed the temples of the gods. All the natives were treated with great cruelty for they slew some and carried off the wives and children of others into slavery. Finally they appointed one of themselves as King. His name was Salitis and he lives in Memphis and made Upper and Lower Egypt pay tribute to him, and set up garrisons in places which would be most useful to him… and when he found a city in the province of Sais which suited his purpose (it lay east of the Bubastite branch of the Nile and was called Avaris) he rebuilt it and made it very strong by erecting walls and installing a force of 240, 000 men to hold it. Salitis went there every summer partly to collect his corn and pay his men their wages, and partly to train his armed troops and terrify foreigners.”

Werner Keller. The Bible as History. Bantam Books. New York. 1982. p.86-87.

Historical Background

While the archaeological evidence from Tell el-Daba (Avaris) shows Palestinian and Syrian groups settling in the north-east Delta from 12th Dynasty times, nothing is known as to the political development of the area. Recently, it has been proposed that it became an independent polity early in the 13th Dynasty, being the historical basis for Manetho’s 14th Dynasty.

It is possible that the 14th Dynasty’s rulers also controlled parts of southern Palestine and beyond. However, after over a century in power, the rulers of Avaris had to cope with famine and plague, trouble that seems to have culminated in their overthrow by a new Palestinian group – the Hyksos (meaning in Egyptian ‘Rulers of Foreign Countries’, 15th Dynasty).

At Avaris, the arrival of these incomers is shown by changes in the pottery forms and other aspects of material culture, together with an expansion of the city. The Hyksos were expansionist, and appear to have taken over Lower Egypt fairly swiftly, driving the rump of the 13th Dynasty regime into the south, where it may have become the 16th Dynasty. Halfway though their period of rule, the Hyksos leader Khyan appears to have managed to conquer Thebes and beyond, at least as far as Gebelein – control over the latter being maintained into the reign of his successor, Apepi. This expansion seems to have been accompanied by a looting of standing monuments, with various items of sculpture (including the cap stones of two pyramids) finding their way back to the Hyksos heartland.

Control over the south was short-lived, the new Theban 17th Dynasty soon ruling at least as far north as Abydos. Some form of accommodation would then appear to have been reached between the two regimes, as it appears from one of the stelae of Kamose that the Thebans were able to pasture their cattle in Hyksos territory. However, under Taa II hostilities had begun between the two regimes, culminating in the final expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt during the reign of the 18th Dynasty king Ahmose I.

The Royal Family

A number of the seals dated to the 14th Dynasty include the names of members of the royal family, but with very little definite evidence of their relationships, other than the typology of the seals. As nothing certain is known of them other than their names, they will not be listed here.
The 15th Dynasty is also very little known, with information confined to the families of Khyan and Apepi. The relationship between Khyan and his eldest son, Yanassi, is indicated by their names and titles appearing together on a stela from Avaris. Two sisters of Apepi appear to be named alongside the king on a number of pieces; the fact that neither are also King’s Daughters suggests that their father was not a king. A lady who did bear this title is named with Apepi on a vase, and was presumably his offspring. Another child may be Apepi B, whose seal is to be dated to the very end of the 15th Dynasty.

Aidon Dodson and Dyan Hilton. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames and Hudson, 2004. pp. 114-115