Event: Friday Seminar: "Tell el-Dab'a/Avaris, the Capital of the Hyksos, a Town of Different Ethnicities"

Date & Time

March 10, 2017 -
4:00pm to 6:00pm

Contact Information

Matthew Swanson


Fowler A222

Event Type

Friday Seminar

Event Details

Speaker: Dr. Manfred Bietak, Professor Emeritus, University of Vienna Institute of Egyptology

Avaris, capital of the Hyksos, was inhabited, as we may presume, mainly by a western Asiatic population, which migrated to Egypt from the late Middle Kingdom onwards. We may call them for convenience sake Amorites as the little onomastic evidence we have, shows that they had mainly Western-Semitic personal names. We don’t know yet, if this population was homogenous. Most probably they were not, as their osteological remains show a sexual dimorphism. This phenomenon is known when wives are taken from a different gen-pool than the men. This result was attested some time ago by the physical anthropologist Eike M. Winkler from the University of Vienna. Most probably, immigrants from the Levant seem to have married local women who also did not match the Egyptian population type. Therefor they may have originated from an older substratum of immigration from different origin. We are lacking, however, the osteological material of the Egyptians who lived in the oldest settlements of the 12th Dynasty at Tell el-Dab‘a at ‘Ezbet Rushdi. These people were not buried within the town as the Canaanites, but according to the Egyptian mortuary tradition in a separate but still undisclosed cemetery, outside the town. We have various indications that they continued to live within Avaris untill the end of the Hyksos Period. Within the oldest part of the town of Avaris, at the quarter where we have evidence of a planned settlement and a temple of the 12th Dynasty, there are no intramural burials, also not from the Second Intermediate Period. The same applies to a quarter directly south of this Middle Kingdom settlement, where even during the Hyksos Period the usual burials in houses or courtyards – which are ethnical markers - are missing. What is missing in this district are finds of toggle-pins which held together the typical Western Asiatic garment at the left shoulder. Such finds were, however, collected within the immediately adjoining quarters, where obviously the Amorites lived.

Besides Egyptians and people from Western Asia from dierent periods of immigration, Avaris proves more and more to have been a multi-ethnical town. Ceramic remains from dierent parts of Nubia can be taken as evidence that also various ethnicities of Nubians lived here. As their pottery has open forms, not suitable as containers of imports, and as the roughly produced cooking pots are not attractive as imports it is likely that Nubians lived in Avaris over a long period. Some of the cooking pots even seem to have been produced of local clays. This would speak indeed for the physical presence of Nubians.

Besides the above mentioned ethnicities there is even some small evidence that Cypriots may have been
present in Avaris shortly before the Hyksos Period as Cypriot pottery was produced locally in Cypriot handmade technique.