Ancient Egypt’s First 'Foreign' Takeover May Have Been an Immigrant Uprising

While the Hyksos were described as invading forces, archeologists who examined their teeth beg to differ.
Derya Ozdemir

Here is the ancient Egypt trivia of today for those who might not be too familiar with it: the monarchs of ancient Egypt called pharaohs lost control of their most fertile lands to Hyksos roughly 3,600 years ago, who were previously described as invading forces by traditional explanations.

However, now, archeologists have analyzed skeletons from the ancient Hyksos capital, providing a fresh look into this part of history, unearthing the fact that the Hyksos were members of an immigrant community born in Egypt that rose up and took over. And we have learned all these thanks to teeth.


Hyksos remained almost enigmatic 

Some were known about the Hyksos, such as them being unlike typical Egyptians in the way they dressed — wearing long, multicolored clothes unlike Egyptian white attire — and how they named their children — their names were akin to people in the neighboring region of southwest Asia.

Ancient Egypt’s First 'Foreign' Takeover May Have Been an Immigrant Uprising
Illustration of the Hyksos "invasion", Source: Nastasic/iStock

Ancient Egyptian propaganda painted them as foreign invaders, who invaded northern Egypt and took it apart. However, some historians beg to differ.

It was an inside job all along

The Hyksos capital city, Avaris, was first identified in the 1940s, and now, a new study, led by archeologist Chris Stantis at Bournemouth University, has examined teeth taken from skeletons buried there to get up close and personal with the Hyksos' roots.

The skeletons were buried at Avaris during the 350-year period before the Hyksos took over and the archeologists looked into teeth taken from 36 of them.

What they discovered was that the skeletons were foreign-born. They were able to say this since the balance of strontium isotopes in teeth can be a determining factor in detecting where a person grew up. 

An immigrant takeover

This data indicated that Egypt had welcomed immigrants long before the Hyksos "invaded" the city. More data taken from another 35 skeletons show that the immigration continued after their takeover.

This is why the archeologists are suggesting Hyksos rulers have emerged from an immigrant community living in Avaris.

This theory is further supported by archeologists finding little to no evidence of any fights or destruction happening in Avaris, which wouldn't be the case if they were foreign invaders.

The study was published in PLOS One.

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