The Second Intermediate Period 1650-1550 BC
15th Dynasty (Hyksos)1650-1550 BC Salitis/Sekerher Khyan Apepi Khamudi 16th Dynasty1650-1580 BC Theban rulers contemporaneous with the 15th Dynasty
17th Dynasty1580 (?)-1550 BC Rahotep Sobekemsaf I Intef VI Intef VII Intef VIII Sobekemsaf II Siamun (?) Seqenenra Taa Kamose
Intermediate Periods “.. the general pattern of these dark periods is roughly thesame. Both begin with a chaotic series of insignificant native rulers; in both, intruders from Palestine cast their shadow over the Delta and even into the Valley; and in both relief comes at last from a hardy race of Theban princes, who after quelling internal dissension expel the foreigner and usher a new epoch of immense power and prosperity.” (Sir Alan Gardiner)
Phases • Abandonment of the royal residence at el-Lisht and moving the government to Thebes (The breakup of unity starts with Sobekhotep IV. The last king of the 13th Dynasty in el-Lisht is Merneferra Ay). • Establishment of the Hyksos capital at Avaris (Tell el-Dab`a) in the eastern Delta: 14th and 15th Dynasties. The zenith of the Hyksos rule is during Auserra Apepi’s 40 year reign. The sacking of Memphis by the Hyksos as recorded by Josephus quoting Manetho. Boundary line at Cusae. • The King of Kush (Nubia) takes over Elephantine and the Cataract Forts. The Kingdom of Kush at its zenith during the Second Intermediate Period. The Great Hut At Kerma. The changing fortunes of the forts between the first and second cataracts. The Kerma Nubians. Pan-grave people (Nubian, termed as Medjay in the Kamose stelae) at Cusae.
The Great Hut at Kerma
The emergence of warrior princes in Thebes: 16th and 17th Dynasties; The quarrel between Apepi and Seqenenra Taa. Theban military outpost at Deir el-Ballas. Kamose’s campaign:The capture of Buhen and the northern campaign.The sack of Nefrusy and the surrounding area of Avaris. Kamose, the last king of the 17th Dynasty. Apepi and Kamose die. Conquest of Avaris by the Theban Ahmose, first king of the 18th Dynasty.
Sources • Excavations at Tell el-Dab`a, a complete stratigraphy. • Manetho’s Aegyptiaca as quoted by Josephus, Africanus and Eusebius. • The Turin Royal Canon. • Texts on two stelae, fragmentary notes on the verso of the Rhind Mathematical papyrus, the tomb biography of Ahmose, son of Ibana, in Elkab, and Ahmose’s relief in Abydos. • Excavations at Deir el-Ballas.
Cultural traits of the Hyksos • West Semitic, Aamu vs. Hyksos. Some were economic migrants, some captured at Egyptian campaigns in the Levant coast. • Houses and tombs (burial customs: tomb next to the house, burial of donkeys, body in contracted position, Syro-Palestinian style pottery, etc.). • At the zenith of the Hyksos period, a mixture of Egyptian and Syro-Palestinian cultural traits. • The cult of Seth (may have been blended with the Syrian weather-god Ba`al Zephon). • Weapons: chariots and horses, compound bow.
Wooden statuette of an Asiatic woman
Cultural traits of the Thebans • Anthropoid coffins (sycamore or tamarisk as opposed to rectangular coffin made of cedar). • Loss of the `hieroglyphic tradition.’ Appearance of hieratic writing (due to lack of training from the scribal schools in Memphis). • Loss of contact with the Memphite scribal school led to the creation of new texts and a new compilation of funerary spells. The first known copy of the Book of the Dead was developed during the 16th Dynasty. The disappearance of the Coffin Texts.
Anthropomorphic coffin of King Nubkheperra Intef VII
There is a debate among scholars just when the Second Intermediate Period began. If we follow the Abydos King List we would finish the Middle Kingdom at the end of the 12th Dynasty and go directly to beginning of the 18th Dynasty. It seems however that during the first half of the 13th Dynasty, the rulers of Egypt maintained control over most of the country. (Manetho designates the 13th Dynasty as Theban due to their buildings of mortuary temples mostly in Upper Egypt.) In view of this, the beginning of the Second Intermediate Period may be put in the middle, the so-called Dynasty 13B.
Irrespective of this debate and its future resolution, during this period a major transformation of the population in the Delta took place. Lower Egypt experienced the influx of a large number of “Asiatics” Aamu or, more precisely, Canaanite (Western Semitic) immigrants, who settled down in the Delta and quickly assimilated with the native population. The blending of the two different cultures was most visible in religion; for example, Ba`al Zephon, the Semitic god of fertility and weather (the so-called storm god) became identified with Seth. On the other hand, the newcomers retained some of their old customs; they buried their dead in pits dug in rocks (chamber graves) in fetal position usually covered with sheepskin. (The Story of Sinuhe mentions this burial custom).
Around 1720 B.C. the centralized control of Egypt collapsed and if we follow Manetho; local rulers of the Delta took control of various parts of Lower Egypt; this is Manetho’s 14th Dynasty. Meanwhile, in Upper Egypt the last of the 13th Dynasty kings were quickly losing control of the northern and southern territories and were eventually reduced to rule in a small area between south of Abydos and Thebes.
In about 1650 BC a new and powerful dynasty of kings emerged in the Delta who probably came from the east. They took control of most of Lower Egypt and parts of Middle Egypt. Manetho assigns the 15th Dynasty to these rulers. The Egyptians called them“rulers of foreign lands” which the Greek corrupted to Hyksos. They made Avaris, Tell el-Dab`a, a city on the eastern Delta, their capital. Their military success may have been partly due to the hitherto unknown in Egypt war chariot, the horse, and the compound bow (a bow strengthened by straps of sinew and horn).
Josephus quotes Manetho as follows: “Tutimaios [king Ddjedmose?or Tuthmose?]. In his reign, for what cause I know not, a blast of God smote us; and unexpectedly from the regions of the East invaders of obscure race marched in confidence of victory against our land. By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow; and having overpowered the rulers of the land, they then burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of the gods, and treated all the natives with cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of the others.
Finally, they appointed as king one of their number whose name was Salitis. He had his seat in Memphis, levying tribute from Upper and Lower Egypt and always leaving garrisons behind in the most advantageous places. .. In the Sethroite nome he found a city very favorably situated on the east of the Bubastite branch of the Nile, and called Avaris after an ancient religious custom. This place he rebuilt and fortified with massive walls. .. After reigning for 19 years Salitis died..”
Meanwhile, south of the third cataract of the Nile a new and powerful state emerged, the Kingdom of Kush with capital at Kerma. Earlier Egyptian worries about the Upper Nubian foe is best illustrated by the feverish building projects of fortresses between the second and third cataracts during the 12th Dynasty. During the decline the permanent garrisons that were placed in this chain of fortresses lost support (provisions) from the motherland and they therefore had little choice but (after some false belief of their independence) to accept Upper Nubian power; they were annexed into the Kingdom of Kush.
A further and logical step of the Kushite kings was to seek alliance with the Hyksos. Although there is evidence for this (the two stelae of Kamose discussed below) a strong alliance never realized. Further evidence is attested of trade relations using the oasis route in the Western Desert. It is doubtful that in the north the so-called Hyksos Kingdom included Palestine and even eastern Syria. Although after the Hyksos takeover of the Delta the influx of Canaanites became even greater, it seems probable that the Levant city-states retained their independence during this period.
Auserra Apepi (c. 1600 BC) Ruled at the zenith of the Hyksos period. Exceptionally long reign (at least 40 years). He had scribal training as recorded on a palette of a scribe Atu. The Hyksos had fairly extensive trade relations with Palestine, the Levant and also with Cyprus. The Kamose stelae list commodities imported by the Hyksos. He claimed to be King of Upper and Lower Egypt but in reality, never ruled below Cusae.
Contemporaneously to the 15th Dynasty of the Hyksos, the Theban 16th and 17th Dynasties comprised puppet rulers who continually tried to avoid direct confrontation with the Hyksos and at times even paid tribute to them. (Sir Alan Gardiner believes that the 16th Dynasty is a pure fiction.) Contemporary military titles such as commander of the crew of the ruler, suggest defensive grouping of military resources and instability.
Seqenenre Taa Seqenenre Taa (c. 1560 BC), the second to the last king of the 17th Dynasty, after slowly building up his military in extremely difficult circumstances (being cut off from both the south and north in supplies) began campaigning in Middle Egypt and succeeded to regain some of the lost territory. These were not part of the Hyksos Kingdom but they were Hyksos allies opposed to Theban rule.
There is implicit written evidence how the war started: Apepi complained that the roar of hippopotami at Thebes was keeping him from sleep. (Hieratic papyrus from the period of the19th dynasty ruler Merneptah.) Further archaeological evidence came from the excavations at Deir el-Ballas, the northern stronghold of the Theban kings built in the desert. It appears that a large number of Kerma Nubians served there during the war. At the end of his reign (some believe that he died in a battle as deep head wounds on his mummy show) he managed to regain all territory south of Cusae.
Kamose His son, Kamose followed his father’s footsteps. First he retook Buhen and drove the Kerma Nubians south. Then he turned northward, assembled a flotilla and conducted a campaign in Hyksos territory.
Here is an excerpt from a threat of Kamose against Apepi (Apophis), the ruler of the Hyksos at the time:
“Your back will see evil, since my army is in the back of you. The women of Avaris will not conceive ... I will make Apophis see a wretched time.” He sacked Nefrusy, north of Cusae, and the following excerpt shows the ferocity of the fight: “as lions are with their prey, so were my army with their servants, their cattle, their milk, fat, and honey, in dividing up their possessions with joyous hearts.” Nefrusy was only an ally of the Hyksos, so its sack must have been punitive and a warning for the other allies.
The Kamose Stelae In celebration of the Hyksos campaign Kamose erected two victory stelae in the Temple of Amun at Karnak after his triumphal entering to Thebes. They are considered historical and a good source of information of what was the actual situation and what happened.
“One chief is in Avaris, another in Kush, and I [Kamose] sit (here) associated with an Asiatic and a Nubian! Each man has his slice in this Egypt and so the land is partitioned with me! None can pass through it as far as Memphis (although it is) Egyptian water! See he [the Hyksos king] (even) has Hermopolis! No one can be at ease when they are milked by the taxes of the Asiatics! I shall grapple with him that I might crush his belly, (for) my desire is to rescue Egypt which the Asiatics have destroyed.”
According to the second stela, a letter from Apepi urging the Kushite king to attack Thebes from the south, has been intercepted on the oasis road during the campaign and Kamose rushed home to steel up the Egyptian defence against possible Kushite attack. The latter never realized.
“I captured his messenger in the oasis upland, as he was going south to Kush with a written dispatch, and I found on it the following in writing by the hand of the Ruler of Avaris: Auserra, son of Re, Apophis greets my son the ruler of Kush. Why have you arisen as a ruler without letting me know? Do you see what Egypt has done to me? The Ruler who is in her midst-Kamose-the Mighty, given life!-is pushing me off my (own) land! I have not attacked him in any way comparable to all he has done to you; he has chopped up the Two Lands to their grief, my land and yours, and he has hacked them up. Come north! Do not hold back! See, he is here with me: There is none who will stand up to you in Egypt. See, I will not give him a way until you arrive! Then we shall divide the towns of Egypt..”
Kamose died shortly afterwards but nearly completed his lifetime goal; the southern border was strong again and in the north Hyksos power was seriously reduced. The job of finishing off the foreign rulers fell on his battle hardened younger brother Ahmose. It is unclear how much advantage he had after his father’s campaign. He came to the throne young and the kingdom was taken care of by the queen mother, Ahhotep. It seems that Ahmose had to reconquer significant amount of territories in the north.
The “Expulsion of the Hyksos” is a historical text written by one of the soldiers, Admiral Ahmose, son of Ibana, from Upper Egypt (tomb biography in Elkab). It narrates repeated attacks of King Ahmose I on the Hyksos at Avaris and then gives some details of the follow up military campaign in the Levant.Admiral Ahmosedid not mention Kamose’s gains although his predecessors fought under Seqenenre Taa and Kamose. Ahmose bypassed Memphis, took Heliopolis and, before the siege of Avaris moved his army east of the city to cut off the Hyksos from retreat.
“..I was taken on the ship “Northern” because I was valiant. Thus I used to accompany the Sovereign-life, prosperity, health!-on foot, following his excursions in his chariot. When the town of Avaris was besieged, then I showed valor on foot in the presence of his Majesty. Thereupon I was appointed to the ship, “Appearing in Memphis.” Then there was fighting on the water in the canal Pa-Djeku of Avaris. I made a capture and carried away a hand. The Gold of Valor was given to me..” “Then Avaris was despoiled. Then I carried off spoil from there: one man three women, a total of four persons. Then his majesty gave them to me to be slaves.”
Africanus, quoting Manetho, states that the siege of Avaris ended with a treaty rather than slaughter. Under the conditions of the treaty the Hyksos could leave Avaris. A mass exodus and abandonment is further confirmed by a clearly distinguished stratum in Avaris. “They [the Hyksos] enclosed [Avaris] with a high strong wall in order to safeguard all their possessions and spoils. The Egyptian king attempted by siege to force them to surrender, blockading the fortress with an army of 480,000 men. Finally, giving up the siege in despair, he concluded a treaty by which they should all depart from Egypt.”
Ahmose then turned further north and conducted a campaign deep in Palestine-Syrian territory. There is a record of a 3-year siege of Sharuhen, near Gaza, the last stronghold of the Hyksos king. “Then Sharuhen [town in the southwestern corner of the land of Canaan] was besieged for three years. Then his majesty despoiled it. Thereupon I carried off spoil from there: two women and a hand..” After Sharuhen was taken, Ahmose had to turn south, to retake Buhen (if this was necessary), and to restore Egyptian control in Nubia. “Now after his majesty had slain the Asiatics, he ascended the river to Khenthennofer, to destroy the Nubian Troglodytes, his majesty made a great slaughter among them.”
Finally, returning home he had to quell two rebellions within Egypt: There came an enemy of the South; his fate, his destruction approached; the gods of the South seized him, and his majesty found him...” “Then came that fallen one whose name was Teti-en, he had gathered to himself rebels. His majesty slew him and his servants, annihilating them.” Ahmoase died shortly after his reconquest of Egypt.
The future of Tell el-Dab`a (18th Dynasty) After the sack and destruction of Avaris, the city and the fortress have been rebuilt. Minoan style frescoes. Connection with Crete? The eruption of the Thera volcano possibly in 1628 BC (traditional date is 1530 BC during the reign of Ahmose); pumice dated later in the reign of AmenhotepI/Tuthmose III. (The pumice is from workshops where it was used as a raw material, so it gives uncertain date.) No significant fallout ash has been detected.
Conclusion The 17th Dynasty Theban pharaohs fought the Hyksos for over 20 years. Ahmose I, the first king of the 18th Dynasty finally defeated the foreign rulers and Egypt became once again united. Ahmose I’s victory was due not only his military skills but the international situation as well. Apepi died in the year of his ascension and the Hittites started flexing their muscles at the back of Hyksos allies. (This is an example when a new dynasty is created not because of the break in the royal succession but because of the change of the era.) Kamose and Ahmose I are the founders of the 18th Dynasty and the New Kingdom (Dynasties 18-20; c. 1550-1070 BC) began.