The Hyksos, who ruled during ancient Egypt’s 15th dynasty, were not foreign invaders but a group that rose to power from within, according to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by a team led by Chris Stantis. from Bournemouth University, UK.
Until now, the Hyksos were thought to be a foreign dynasty that ruled parts of Egypt between approximately 1638 and 1530 BC, thus marking the first time that Egypt was ruled by individuals of foreign origin.
The commonly accepted story is that the Hyksos were invaders from a distant land, but this idea has been challenged several times. Archaeological evidence links the Hyksos culture to a Near Eastern origin, but exactly how they came to power is unclear.
In this study, Stantis and colleagues collected enamel samples from the teeth of 75 humans buried in the ancient Hyksos capital, Tell el-Dab’a, in the northeastern Nile Delta. Comparing the strontium isotope ratios in teeth with environmental isotope signatures from Egypt and elsewhere, assessed the geographic origins of individuals living in the city.
They found that a large percentage of the population was non-local, immigrating from a wide variety of other places. This pattern was true both before and during the Hyksos dynasty.
This pattern does not match the story of a sudden invasion from a distant land, but of a multi-cultural region where an internal group – the Hyksos – finally rose to power after living there for generations.
This is the first study to use archaeological chemistry to address the origins of the Hyksos rulers, but the authors note that more research and broader chemical techniques will be needed to identify the specific ancestors of the Hyksos and other non-local residents of Egypt.
According to Stantis Archaeological chemistry, specifically isotopic analysis, shows us first-generation migration during a time of great cultural transformation in ancient Egypt. Instead of the old invasion theories, we see more people, especially women, migrating to Egypt before Hyksos rule, suggesting economic and cultural changes leading to foreign rule rather than violence..
PLOS ONE / Stantis C, Kharobi A, Maaranen N, Nowell GM, Bietak M, Prell S, et al. (2020) Who were the Hyksos? Challenging traditional narratives using strontium isotope (87Sr/86Sr) analysis of human remains from ancient Egypt. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0235414. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0235414