The Enigma of the Hyksos


© ERC Hyksos Enigma

The Hyksos were a dynasty of foreign rulers being in power in Egypt between c.1640 and 1530 BC. Their exact geographical origin in the Levant, the process of their seizure of power in Egypt and their role in history remains, however, an enigma, as the period is poorly represented in texts. Nevertheless the Hyksos phenomenon has so far mainly been studied by text-based Egyptology, ignoring other possible sources, like archaeological remains, burial customs and settlement patterns, not to mention biological data.

In the last decades excavations at several places in Egypt’s eastern Delta have produced an enormous wealth of new information and one can now, together with finds stored in several museums all over the world, resort to enormous quantities of objects reflecting the material culture as well as physical remains, which can be attributed to the carriers of the Hyksos rule and their predecessors. These materials now available and left so far largely aside in the scientific discussion can be utilised as first class historical sources. The projected investigations of this innovative project will be conducted in 8 interrelated research tracks, incorporating an array of archaeological, historical, theoretical and analytical approaches. Archaeological analyses, cultural interference studies and new onomastic studies are going to play an equal role as well as most up-to-date DNA and Sr isotope analyses (bio-archaeological research by the second host institution, the Bournemouth University, UK) as well as gas-phase chromatography. The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to reveal the origin of the western Asiatic population, the dialogue with the host country, the impact on the culture of the latter and finally their heritage in Egypt.

© ERC Hyksos Enigma

Objectives of the research programme


  • Determination of the geographic origins and ethnicity of the western Asiatic people living in the Delta during the Middle Kingdom (MK) and the Second Intermediate Period (SIP) and the ascertainment whether they were a homogenous group or arrived in waves and from different locations.
  • The timing, the factors and ways of immigration of that population.
  • Definition of the culture of the western Asiatic population in the eastern Delta during the MK and SIP, furthermore to assess the interference of the Middle Bronze Age (MB) in the Levant with the Egyptian culture.
  • The identification of the mechanisms through which the Hyksos came to power, to reconstruct the mechanisms of their rule, the spatial structure of their kingdom and the na­ture of its internal and external relations.
  • Collecting evidence as to whether the Hyksos and the Western Asiatic population in the eastern Delta disappeared ‘without a trace’ or whether they had an impact on the culture and spiritual world such as religion, literature and language of the New Kingdom.
  • To distinguish the reason the Hyksos failed, by studying the foundations and fluctuations of economy and trade in respect to prosperity and crisis.