called the Hyksos dynasty, Second Intermediate Period. Sources for the lost history of Egypt, prepared by the Egyptian historian Manetho in the third century BCE, record a Dynasty 15 group of kings that comprised six “Hyksos,” who were “foreign rulers” from the Near East. An extract in a later history by Josephus, the first-century CE Roman-Jewish historian, provides two possible translations for Hyksos: “shepherd kings” and “captive shepherds.” His second translation would apply to a people, not just to rulers, and the extract relates how they invaded from the east, during the reign of a “good king” (tou timaiou; otherwise interpreted as a king “Tutimaios”), and selected Salitis to be their king. He went on to found the city of Avaris in the eastern Nile Delta. On a fragment of the Ramessid king-list papyrus known as the Turin Canon, the number and title recur with six ḥḳʒ ḫʒswt (“rulers of hill-lands”) covering 106 years; it preserves one king's name, Khamudy. Three other New Kingdom sources record “rulers of hill-lands,” confirming the first etymology for Hyksos in Greek texts as a royal title, not an ethnic designation: (1) a mid-eighteenth dynasty tomb-chapel inscription of Ahmose, son of Abana, at Elkab that records the defeat of the Hyksos; (2) an inscription of Hatshepsut at Speos Artemidos, on restoring order after foreign occupation; and (3) a literary narrative attested on one Ramessid papyrus, relating origins of conflict between the Hyksos Apophis (Apepi) and a subservient Theban king, Seqenenra Taa. These three later accounts match archaeological evidence for settlement in the eastern Delta, where late Middle Kingdom sites reveal the replacement of Egyptian by Near Eastern material culture—in pottery styles, weaponry, and burial customs. The largest site is at Tell ed-Dabʿa, and from its scale and finds is now generally identified as the Hyksos capital (the ḥwt-wʿrt of Egyptian texts; the Greek Avaris). A limestone lintel from Tell ed-Dabʿa places the title heqa khasut (“ruler of hill-lands”) before a cartouche containing the name Sekerher (perhaps Sheshy, r. 1664–1662 BCE); this is the only instance of that title and name in large-scale inscription, as opposed to those on seal-amulets of the period. Apart from scarabs and other small-scale inscriptions, period texts exclusively in Egyptian hieroglyphs provide evidence for only two other rulers, Khayan and Apepi (perhaps, respectively, Manetho's Pakhnan and Apophis). A limestone block found near Tell ed-Dabʿa, names Khayan (r. 1653–1614 BCE) above the “king's son Yenenes” (recalling Manetho's Yannas; Yansas-adon, ruled perhaps 1614–1605 BCE). Three throne-names were apparently taken by Apophis (r. 1605–1565 BCE): Aauserra, Aaqenenra, and Nebkhepeshra. This recalls the three Horus-names of Nebhepetre Montuhotep at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom; war perhaps influenced such name changes. Apophis is named in the above-mentioned Ramessid tale as the opponent of the Theban king Seqenenra Taa; the skull of Taa bore the imprint of blows from a blade of Near Eastern type. Apophis was also the Hyksos in whose reign the Theban king Kamose (r. 1571–1569 BCE) besieged Avaris, according to the narrative on some stelae erected for Kamose at Karnak. The next Theban king, Ahmose (r. 1569–1545 BCE), expelled the foreigners, marking the start of the New Kingdom. (Since Manetho placed Apophis as the last Hyksos king, this leaves unexplained the Hamudi (Khamudy) named before the “foreign rulers” total in the Turin Canon.)

The Hyksos entered Egyptian texts as invading iconoclasts, which may be borne out by one deliberately erased Egyptian royal bronze found at Tell ed-Dabʿa; however, the date and means of their rise to power is uncertain. The Hyksos were preceded as rulers of the eastern Delta by a group of kings (the fourteenth dynasty), of whom Neḥesy is best attested, with a cult of Seth that had already been established at Tell ed-Dabʿa. As the god of desert and disorder, Seth provided shared religious ground between Egypt and the settlers. The Seth cult perhaps encouraged later writers to depict the Hyksos as enemies of order, though this Delta cult continued to thrive into Ramessid times. Surviving Hyksos monuments are limited to brief, crudely incised inscriptions on older, reused blocks or statues. In material culture, the settlers appear to have remained alien. The second Kamose stela records a letter on clay from Apophis to a ruler of Kush. Besides illustrating a policy of encircling Thebes by alliance, this implies a non-Egyptian means of communication, perhaps even Near Eastern cuneiform script on clay tablets. The last Hyksos king may also have commissioned wall paintings in Tell ed-Dabʿa from Minoan artists, but the dating of these is debated. The only men with Egyptian titles attested on contemporary objects that mention the Hyksos are “Aper the treasurer,” on the inscription of a granodiorite offering-stand, and “Itju the scribe,” on the palette from the Faiyum. Also attested are two women titled “king's daughter”; in the broken historical record, it is difficult to speculate on their biographies. As with the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus and the use of hieroglyphs, these sources indicate that the “foreign rulers” were not hostile to Egyptian tradition; perhaps they became even more receptive by the end of their century of rule.



  • Bietak, Manfred. Avaris and Piramesse: Archaeological Exploration in the Eastern Nile Delta. London, 1986. Revised issue of a 1981 monograph first published in 1979 in Proceedings of the British Academy 65 (1979), 225–289. Preliminary account by the excavator of the key Hyksos site Tell ed-Dabʿa.
  • Bietak, Manfred. “Connections between Egypt and the Minoan World.” In Egypt, the Aegean and the Levant, edited by W. V. Davies and L. Schofield, pp. 19–28. London, 1995. Includes examples of the Minoan fresco fragments unearthed at Tell ed-Dabʿa.
  • Habachi, Labib. The Second Stela of Kamose. Abhandlungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Kairo, 8. Glückstadt, 1972. The first edition of the most important Egyptian royal text on the war against the Hyksos.
  • Kemp, Barry J. “Old, Middle and Second Intermediate Period c.2686–1552 BC.” In The Cambridge History of Africa, edited by J. Desmond Clark, vol. I, pp. 658–769. Cambridge, 1982. Reprinted in Bruce G. Trigger, et al., Ancient Egypt: A Social History. Cambridge, 1982. Represents the consensus on the history of the period (and that point of view has been presented in the encyclopedia article).
  • Oren, Eliezer, ed. The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives. Philadelphia, 1997.
  • Redford, Donald B. “The Hyksos Invasion in History and Tradition.” Orientalia 39 (1970), 1–51.
  • Ryholt, Kim S. B. The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c.1800–1550 B.C. Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications, 20. Copenhagen, 1997. A wide-ranging reevaluation of the archaeological and textual sources, with comprehensive bibliography and list of sources for kings. Note that definitions of dynasties differ from those in Kemp (1982), and archaeologists have yet to review several conclusions based on specific contexts. The reappraisal, however, includes invaluable discussions of key data, such as royal scarabs and the Turin Canon.
  • Winlock, Herbert E. The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes. New York, 1947. Includes principal discussion of the burial equipment of the Theban kings of the Second Intermediate Period, with revisions of several points in his previous article on the subject in Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 10 (1924), 217–277.

Stephen G. J. Quirke