Hyksos Palace Excavated at Tell el-Dab'a

Discoveries from excavations at Tell el-Dab’a, the Hyksos capital in Egypt, were announced recently in a press release from the University of Vienna, but the article was only available in German.  Joe Lauer has received and passed along a statement from the press office in English, which is given below.  Photos of the cuneiform tablet, horse burial, and archaeologist are linked at the bottom of this page.

   A team of the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Cairo and of the University of Vienna under Prof. Manfred Bietak and Irene Forstner-Mueller excavated recently a palace of the Hyksos king Khayan (c. 1600-1585 BC). The site is called Tell el-Dab‘a and it was the capital of the Hyksos kings, who ruled the northern part of Egypt between 1640 and 1530 BC. The antiquities were revealed just under the agricultural crust in a rescue operation. It became clear that this palace in the size of over 10,000 sqm is of northern Syrian type and ranges very well among the biggest palaces found thus far in northern Syria. 
    Two finds this season were particularly remarkable. First a fragment of a cuneiform letter written in southern Mesopotamian style and originating most probably in Babylon. As Karen Radner and Frans van Koppen from the University College London – two eminent scholars in this field – found out, this fragment was a letter and can be dated according to its orthography to the last 50 years of the Old Babylonian Kingdom of Hammurabi. The find shows the far reaching international ties of the Hyksos and at the same time connects Egyptian chronology with the Mesopotamian chronology – thus far the synchronisation with Egypt was a controversy of scholars. Now this matter seems to be settled in favour of a low Mesopotamian chronology with the conquest of Babylon around 1550 BC.
    The second important discovery was the burial of a horse, which is situated and stratigraphically well connected within the palace. It was a mare between 5 and 10 years. It was obviously not a chariot horse but more likely used for breeding. It was the Hyksos who introduced the horse to Egypt and it is the oldest undisputed horse burial found in this country. Its position in the palace suggests that this mare was a pet of the Hyksos, most likely king Khayan.
    The third important discovery was a courtyard used for ritual feasts. Numerous pits with over 5000 vessels, buried ritually with remains of meals such as animal bones, were found. Such institutions as this courtyard, secured behind enormous walls, are known from texts in Mesopotamia and the Levant since the third millennium BC. The feasts were in honour of deceased kings or at the occasion of birthdays of gods. It is the first time that such rituals are attested in Egypt by a population originating from the northern Levant.
    The Hyksos period is still very obscure from historical point of view, but the long going excavation of the Austrian team has contributed to a series of corrections in its historiography. The population originated most probably from Lebanon and northern Syria, as the newly discovered palace and the pottery shows. They were people with an urban background and came originally in the late 12th Dynasty (Middle Kingdom) as shipbuilders, sailors, soldiers and craftsmen to the country where the pharaohs settled them in a harbour town in the north-eastern Delta, the later city of Avaris. In a time of political weakness they were able to establish a small kingdom there and soon afterwards were able to control the Delta and Middle Egypt until their former vassals in Upper Egypt, particularly king Ahmose defeated them and founded the New Kingdom.


5 thoughts on “Hyksos Palace Excavated at Tell el-Dab'a

  1. Thanks Todd!

    The reference to finds permitting the synchronization of cultures was particularly interesting to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any additional information in the links provided.

    Based on the information provided, do you agree that the evidence is conclusive as indicated? If not, why not? Lastly, does the proposed synchronization have bearing on the High-Low Exodus controversy?

  2. This is another major identification that confirms the 1445 BC Exodus date if one understands the Exodus 1:8, "new king arose over [better translated as against] Egypt," as the Hyksos.

  3. Dear Todd,

    Thank you for your very interesting and informative blog, including the above post on the Hyksos. It still appears to me that of various proposed ideas regarding the Hyksos, ideas of Immanuel Velikovsky in his 1952 ‘Ages in Chaos’ are among the most sensible. Velikovsky proposed that the Hyksos (sometimes called Amu by ancient Egyptians) should be identified with the biblical Amalekites and gave many reasons supporting this identification. One of them is that there was a shared belief among a number of historic Arab writers that there were Amalekite pharaohs of Egypt and that Amalekites ruled Arabia and surrounding lands (including Egypt).

    In several books Velikovsky presented an enormous amount of evidence from various centuries that some dynasties of Egypt (including, but not limited to, the Hyksos period in Egypt and the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st Dynasties) have been dated some three to eight centuries too far back in the conventional chronology of ancient Egypt. One of many aspects of this is the identification of the Hyksos with the Amalekites and the dating of the Hyksos period in Egypt to approximately the time of Amalekite prominence in the Bible – from just after the Exodus to Saul’s defeat of the Amalekites. Velikovsky proposed that the Hyksos-Amalekites were jointly defeated by the Egyptians (led by Ahmose) and ancient Israel (led by Saul). The Hyksos period would thus be a long epoch of some 440 years or more, roughly similar to the figure of 511 years assigned by Manetho (per Josephus) to the Hyksos period.

    Velikovsky argued in Ages in Chaos that a natural catastrophe and resulting social upheaval (anarchy) brought Egypt's Middle Kingdom to an end. The Admonitions of Ipuwer appears to be an Egyptian account of the catastrophe, i.e., series of plague-like events which seems to be also described in the Book of Exodus. The many Ipuwer-Exodus parallels are indeed striking. Many authors have had suggestions as to the causes of the plagues. However, the catastrophe, whatever its cause or causes, seems probably to have allowed two things to happen, as discussed in Ages in Chaos: (1) the Israelites left Egypt, and (2) the Hyksos invaded Egypt, taking advantage of Egypt's weakened condition. The Exodus catastrophe explains the ease with which, according to Manetho, the Hyksos conquered Egypt–without even a battle.

    I suggest that the Hyksos may have been not very technologically advanced when they first entered Egypt. However, they likely became more sophisticated during the long Hyksos epoch and developed extensive relations of trade and/or tribute. Thus the Hyksos may have introduced into Egypt technological developments and/or cultural practices from Syria/Mesopotamia long after their initial entry into Egypt. However the Hyksos might not have introduced horses and chariots into Egypt; the pharaoh of the Exodus would seem to have already had these at the time of the Israelite Exodus/Hyksos invasion. The Hyksos may have originally come from Arabia, rather than Syria or Mesopotamia; Manetho wrote that some say that the Hyksos were Arabians. I suggest that the Hyksos were not shipbuilders/sailors/craftsmen who were settled in a harbour town by the pharaohs, though other Asiatics may have been so settled.

    I am not an archaeologist or professional historian. However, as a concerned and interested layperson I have been studying ancient history and archaeology on a frequent basis since first reading books by Velikovsky in 1991. I recommend that professional scholars and interested laypersons read Velikovsky’s pioneer works ‘Ages in Chaos’, ‘Ramses II and His Time’, and ‘Peoples of the Sea’. The best one-volume treatment of Egyptian chronology that I have seen is ‘Unwrapping the Pharaohs’ (2006) by John Ashton and archaeologist David Down. ‘Unwrapping the Pharaohs’ supports the identification of the Hyksos with the Amalekites. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

    Adam Stuart
    Jacksonville, Florida

  4. The whole hyksos caper comes from European Jews, not a shred of evidence comes from ancient egypt.

    A guy named Josephus
    who's writings do not exist
    who was not born until 2000 years
    after the fact, got his info

    From an Egyptian who existed in the time of the romans
    1000 years after the event
    his text does not exist

    The source of all of this can be traced to European Jews, not the middle east.. also

    The Israelites worked on the city of Raamses who was not born until 300 years after the death of Ahmose, so if the bible is true, the Israelites never saw a Hyksos

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