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Minoan painting on the wall of the Hyksos palace

Minoan painting on the wall of the Hyksos palace

Around 1786 BC, some people we call the Hyksos invaded Egypt. The Hyksos invasion ended the Middle Kingdom and started the Second Intermediate Period. The Hyksos, who were invaders from West Asia, took over the eastern part of the Nile Delta. That was North-Eastern Egypt, the part closest to Asia. Nobody knows for sure who the Hyksos were, but they seem to have been Amorites. The Amorites spoke a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic. They came from the area around Syria and Israel, an area which had done a lot of trading with the Egyptians during the Middle Kingdom. Probably the Hyksos brought horses and chariots to Egypt for the first time.

The Hyksos built themselves a new capital city at Avaris (modern Tell el-Dab’a) in the Nile delta in Lower Egypt, and brought over Minoan painters to decorate it for them.

The Hyksos did very well for about a hundred years. Then (as in the First Intermediate Period), southern rulers from Thebes again started to reconquer the north of Egypt. The Hyksos built a thick wall to defend their capital, but the southerners defeated the Hyksos anyway. In these “wars of liberation,” the brothers Kamose and Ahmose, who were from Upper Egypt in the south, fought the Hykso. Kamose and Ahmose also fought the Nubians, Africans who lived to the south in what is now Sudan. Kamose and Ahmose succeeded in reuniting Egypt in the New Kingdom.

Learn by doing: Hieroglyphs
Go on to the New Kingdom

Bibliography and further reading about ancient Egypt:

Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt, by George Hart. Easy reading.

The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, by Ian Shaw (2002).

History of Ancient Egypt: An Introduction, by Erik Hornung (1999). A college textbook. On the conservative side – not much on new developments.

Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture, by William H. Stiebing (2002). Expensive for a paperback, but brief and very up to date. And yes, it includes Egypt in the Near East.

Old Kingdom(2686-2160 BC)
First Intermediate Period(2160-2040 BC)
Middle Kingdom(2040-1633 BC)
Second Intermediate Period(1786-1558 BC)
New Kingdom(1558-1085 BC)
Third Intermediate Period(1085-525 BC)
Persian rule(525-332 BC)
Greek rule(332-30 BC) (also called the Hellenistic)
Roman rule(30 BC-700AD)
Islamic rule(700 AD to present)