Hyksos

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The Hyksos (Egyptian heqa khasewet meaning "foreign rulers," Greek Ὑκσώς) were an ethnically mixed group of Southwest Asiatic or Semitic people who appeared in the eastern Nile Delta, initiating the Second Intermediate Period of ancient Egypt. They rose to power in the 17th century BC, and ruled Lower and Middle Egypt for over 100 years, forming the Fifteenth and possibly the vassal Sixteenth Dynasties of Egypt, (ca. 1648-1540 B.C.E. See Egyptian chronology). This 108 year period follows the Turin Canon, which gives the 6 kings of the Hyksos 15th Dynasty a total reign length of 108 years.[1]

Traditionally, only the six Fifteenth Dynasty rulers are called "Hyksos." The Hyksos had names that bear strong similarities to Canaanite names, especially those which contain the names of Canaanite deities such as Anath or Ba'al. Archaeologists think of the Canaanites as being indistinguishable from the Phoenicians. The Hyksos introduced new tools of warfare into Egypt, most notably the composite bow and the horse-drawn chariot.

Some scholars associate the Hyksos to the ancient Hebrews, seeing their departure from Egypt as the story retold in the Exodus; however, this is not without controversy. It is significant that the Hyksos departure as such is not currently known from any Levantine literature contemporary with the event, while the Exodus is told in the Bible as the formative event of Jewish culture.

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[edit] Who Were the Hyksos?

Unsolved problems in Egyptology: What was the origin of the Hyksos? Who were their first leaders?

The term "Hyksos" derives from the Egyptian expression heka khasewet (Rulers of Foreign Lands), used in Egyptian texts such as the Turin King List to describe the rulers of neighbouring lands. This expression begins to appear as early as the late Old Kingdom in Egypt, referring to various Nubian chieftains; and as early as the Middle Kingdom, referring to the Bedouin chieftains of Syria and Canaan. It is generally accepted that only the six kings of the Fifteenth Dynasty are properly to be called "Hyksos", because not only do they bear Egyptian royal titles, but they are specifically called Hyksos by Manetho.

Wolfgang Helck argued that the Hyksos were part of massive and widespread Hurrian and Indo-Aryan migrations into the Near East. According to Helck, the Hyksos were Hurrians and part of a Hurrian empire that, he claimed, extended over much of Western Asia at this period. This old theory is now discarded by modern scholars.

The names, the order, and even the total number of the Fifteenth Dynasty rulers are not known with any certainty. The names appear in hieroglyphs on monuments and small objects such as jar lids and scarabs. In those instances in which Prenomen and Nomen do not occur together on the same object, there is no certainty that the names belong together as the two names of a single person. This period of Egyptian history is a chronological nightmare that only additional datable archaeological material can resolve.

Manetho's history of Egypt is known only through the works of others, such as Flavius Josephus. These sources do not list the names of the six rulers in the same order. To complicate matters further, the spellings are so distorted that they are useless for chronological purposes; there is no close or obvious connection between the bulk of these names — Salitis, Beon/Bnon, Apachnan/Pachnan, Annas/Staan, Apophis, Assis/Archles — and the Egyptian names that appear on scarabs and other objects. The hieroglyphic names of the Fifteenth Dynasty Hyksos rulers as they are known from monuments, scarabs, and other objects are:

  1. Sa-kha-en-ra Shalik (Each name is only found separately.)
  2. Mer-woser-ra Yaqob-her (Both names are found together on one scarab.)
  3. The heka-khasewet Sakir-Har (Various times during his reign (a good Egyptian practice which is attested frequently) remains for future discoveries to resolve.)

[edit] Association with the Hebrews

[edit] Jacobovici's Exodus Decoded

A 2006 documentary created by Jewish Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici (pron. "Jacobovich"), which explores new evidence in favor of the account of the Book of Exodus, "Exodus Decoded" (The History Channel, aired Sunday, 20 August, 2006), investigates Egyptian records of the departure of the mysterious Semitic Hyksos.

Jacobovici suggests that the Hyksos and the Hebrews (whom he calls "Amo Israel", "the people of God") were one and the same, a thesis he supports with Egyptian-style signet rings uncovered in the Hyksos capital of Avaris. These signets read Yakov, similar to Hebrew name of the Biblical patriarch Jacob (Ya'aqov). Another standpoint for this theory is one of the important Hyksos cities, Avaris, which is called modernly Tel el-Yahudiyeh (meaning "mound of the Jews") known for its distinctive black and whiteware.

Jacobovici propounds the theory that the eruption of the Santorini Island volcano (c. 1623 B.C., +/-25) caused all the biblical plagues described against Egypt, redating the eruption to c. 1500 B.C.. The Hyksos, some of them Mycenaean Greek "Hebrews", fled Egypt (which they had in fact ruled for some time) after the eruption. Jacobovici (and fellow producer James Cameron) make a dramatic but rather thinly-supported presentation that the Hyksos were none other than the Israelites, who may have also been known as Habiru ("Hebrews"). The pharaoh with whom they identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus is Ahmose I, whose name means "the moon is born".

[edit] Josephus

In his Antiquities of the Jews and Against Appion, Josephus recounts a tale supposedly from Manetho about the expulsion of a group of Asiatic lepers, led by a renegade Egyptian priest called Osarseph. It appears this tale is a conflation of events of the Amarna period, of the earlier Hyksos expulsion, the Exodus, and events at the end of the 19th Dynasty (perhaps early anti-Semitism). Josephus, who did not want to concede that his people were descended from either Egyptians and/or lepers, identified the expulsion of the Jews (the Exodus) with the Hyksos, saying that in addition to his ancestors being kings, but that hyk came from the Egyptian word for "captive", so that hyksos meant "captive shepherds". Josephus is also responsible for the false etymology that Hyksos in fact stood for Hekw Shasu - '"Wandering Shepherd Kings" - which has only been corrected by more modern scholarship.

[edit] Other possibilities

The departure of the large slave population of Hebrews, (economic weakening), coupled with the destruction of some of Egypt's army during the Exodus, (military weakening), may have laid the groundwork for Hyksos takeover "without a battle." <ref>http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v15/i1/moses.asp Searching for Moses</ref> This is more consistent with recent contractions in the Egyptian chronology.

[edit] Was There a Hyksos Invasion?

Manetho's account of the appearance of the Hyksos in Egypt calls it an armed invasion by a horde of foreign barbarians who met little resistance and who subdued the country by military force. It has been claimed that new revolutionary methods of warfare ensured the Hyksos the ascendancy in their invasion. In the book, The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes, Herbert E. Winlock describes new military hardware, such as the composite bow, as well as the improved recurve bow and most importantly the horse-drawn war chariot, as well as improved arrowheads, various kinds of swords and daggers, a new type of shield, mailed shirts, and the metal helmet.

The traditional explanation is there was an invasion; one that took several years and that wasn't a coordinated effort of some foreign kingdom, but mostly a migration of particular groups, tribes or federated tribes, which had access to new and superior weapons developed further away in Asia that helped them conquer a rich piece of land to live in. In the last decades, however, the idea of a simple migration, with little or no violence involved, has gained some support. Under this theory, Egyptian rulers of 13th Dynasty were unable to stop the newcomers mostly because they were inept or too busy with internal problems. At some point the foreigners, whose elite might have already been local rulers in the name of the pharaoh, realized there was no need to pay tribute and obedience to a weak king, and took the title of pharaoh for themselves (in the north of the country--the Hyksos never penetrated the south).

Eventually, when their numbers became so great, a man among them, Salitis, decided to wrest control of this country {Egypt] from its current rulers. Josephus [who claimed to have read the historian Manetho] claimed the invasion took place like this:

"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 gods...Finally, they appointed as king one of their number whose name was Salitis."

Supporters of this more peaceful theory claim there's little evidence of battles or war in general in the period. They also say that the chariot didn't play any relevant role, so there was no real technological superiority on the Hyksos side. The case for the invasion, on the other side, is based mostly on: (a) the traditional Manetho's explanation; (b) the fact that the chariot was a new technology spreading from the barbaric Central Asia and that there are other theories of invasions by nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes mounted on chariots in the 1700-1300 BC time period, most notably Hurrians in the Near East (according to Helck) and Aryans in India (retold in the Vedas), with the Hurrians in particular being active quite near where the Hyksos appeared; and (c) the fact that the chariot became the master weapon of that period, the weapon of nobles and kings, and one of the most important symbols of power in Eurasia, because in Mycenaean Greece, India, Mesopotamia, Eastern Europe and China, kings and gods started to be portrayed on chariots, buried in chariots and always went to war in chariots. With such an important new weapon, the advocates of the invasion theory say, it seems strange to consider that the Hyksos just entered peacefully in the north of Egypt from Asia, with no knowledge of the chariot, or knowing it but choosing not to use it.

The Hyksos employed mobile firing platforms, also known as chariots. This allowed them to protect and mobilize their archers, giving them a fighting chance of retreating if the infantry should fold. The chariots employed by the Hyksos also gave them impeccable scouting capabilities. In Egypt, before the chariot, a man would have to walk the distance himself, in a dessert climate. With this new piece of technology, he could cover more distances in a shorter amount of time. However, there is a downside to the chariot. It increases the amount of resources a commander needs to expend. Before the chariot, the field commander only needed to worry about feeding and lodging his troops in the field. Now, having this innovation, he needed to feed and lodge not only the troops, but also whatever means he would use to pull the chariot itself.

[edit] Hyksos Rule

The Hyksos kingdom, then, was centered in the eastern Nile Delta and Middle Egypt and remained limited in size, never extending south into Upper Egypt, which was under the evidently firm control of the Theban dynasts. Hyksos relations with the south seem to have been mainly of a commercial nature, although the Theban princes do seem to have recognized the Hyksos rulers and may possibly have submitted for a time to the payment of tribute. The Hyksos Fifteenth Dynasty rulers established their capital and seat of government at Memphis and their summer residence at Avaris.

Many writers have taken the increasing use of scarabs by the Fifteenth Dynasty Hyksos kings and their wide distribution as an indication of their expanding literacy as they became progressively Egyptianized. The Hyksos used Egyptian titles associated with traditional Egyptian kingship, and took Egyptian god Seth to represent their own titulary deity. Indeed, far from being the bearers of a distinctive Hyksos "culture", they seem to have borrowed freely and extensively from the Egyptian, as Hayes notes. In fact, it would appear as though Hyksos administration was accepted in most quarters, if not actually supported by many of their Egyptian subjects. The flip side is that in spite of the prosperity that the stable political situation brought to the land, the native Egyptians continued to view the Hyksos as hated "Asiatics". When they eventually were driven out of Egypt all traces of their occupation were erased. History is written by the victors, and in this case the victors were the rulers of the Eighteenth Dynasty, a native dynasty, the direct successor of the Theban Seventeenth Dynasty. It was the latter which started and led a sustained war against the Hyksos. These native kings from Thebes had an incentive to demonize the Asiatic rulers in the North, thus accounting for the ruthless destruction of their monuments. This note of warning tells us that the historical situation most probably lay somewhere between these two extreme positions: the Hyksos dynasties represented superficially Egyptianized foreigners who were tolerated, but not truly accepted, by their Egyptian subjects.

The independent native rulers in Thebes do seem, however, to have reached a practical modus vivendi with the later Hyksos rulers. This included transit rights through Hyksos-controlled Middle and Lower Egypt and pasturage rights in the fertile Delta. One text, Carnarvon Tablet I, relates the misgivings of the Theban ruler’s council of advisors when Kamose proposed moving against the Hyksos, whom he claimed were a humiliating stain upon the holy land of Egypt.

The councillors clearly did not wish to disturb the status quo: "[...] we are at ease in our (part of) Egypt. Elephantine (at the First Cataract) is strong, and the middle (of the land) is with us as far as Cusae [near modern Asyut]. The sleekest of their fields are plowed for us, and our cattle are pastured in the Delta. Emmer is sent for our pigs. Our cattle have not been taken away... He holds the land of the Asiatics; we hold Egypt..." (This and other texts in English translation may be found in Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ANET), pp. 232f.)

[edit] The Theban Offensive

[edit] Under Seqenenra Tao (II)

The war against the Hyksos began in the closing years of the Seventeenth Dynasty at Thebes. Later New Kingdom literary tradition has brought one of these Theban kings, Seqenenra Tao (II), into contact with his Hyksos contemporary in the north, Aauserra Apopi. Seqenenra is the father of the ruler above whose advisors counselled against disturbing the accommodation that had been reached with the Asiatics. The tradition took the form of a tale in which the Hyksos king Apopi sent a messenger to Seqenenra in Thebes to demand that the Theban hippopotamus pool be done away with, for the noise of these beasts was such that he was unable to sleep in far-away Avaris. Perhaps the only historical information that can be gleaned from the tale is that Egypt was a divided land, the area of direct Hyksos control being in the north, but the whole of Egypt possibly paying tribute to the Hyksos kings.

Seqenenra participated in active diplomatic posturing, which probably consisted of more than simply exchanging insults with the Asiatic ruler in the North. He seems to have led military skirmishes against the Hyksos, and judging by the vicious head wound on his mummy in the Cairo Museum, he may have died during one of them. His son and successor, Wadjkheperra Kamose, the last ruler of the Seventeenth Dynasty at Thebes, is credited with the opening campaigns of the Theban war against the Hyksos.

It should be noted that Seqenenra Tao has been proposed as the legendary Hiram Abif by the authors of the book The Hiram Key. Per the authors Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, Hiram Abif (the master mason of King Solomon's Temple in masonic lore) can be traced to the historical personage of Seqenenra.

[edit] Under Kamose

There is little evidence to support Montet's assertion in his book Eternal Egypt (1964) that Kamose's war of liberation was sponsored by the priesthood of Amun as an attack against the Seth-worshipers in the north (i.e. a religious motive). The Carnarvon Tablet I, does state that Kamose went north to attack the Asiatics by the command of Amun, the titulary deity of his dynasty, but this may be simple hyperbole common to virtually all Egyptian royal inscriptions at all periods and should not be understood as the god’s having specifically commanded the attack for specifically religious reasons. Kamose's reason for launching his attack on the Hyksos was nationalistic pride, for in this same text he complains that he is sandwiched at Thebes between the Asiatics in the north and the Nubians (Sudanese) in the south, each holding "his slice of Egypt, dividing up the land with me... My wish is to save Egypt and to smite the Asiatics!" So it was that in his 3rd year on the throne Kamose embarked and sailed north from Thebes at the head of his army.

He surprised and overran the southernmost garrison of the Hyksos at Nefrusy, just north of Cusae [near modern Asyut], and Kamose then led his army as far north as the neighborhood of Avaris itself. Though the city was not taken, the fields around it were devastated by the Thebans. A stele discovered at Thebes continues the account of the war broken off on the Carnarvon Tablet I, telling of the interception and capturing of a courier bearing a message from the Hyksos king Aawoserra Apopi at Avaris to his ally the ruler of Kush (modern Sudan), requesting his urgent support. Kamose promptly ordered a detachment of his troops to occupy the Bahriya Oasis in the Western Desert, controlling and blocking the desert route to the south. Kamose, called "the Strong", then sailed back up the Nile to Thebes for a joyous victory celebration after what was probably not much more than a surprise spoiling raid in force which caught the Hyksos off guard. This Year 3 is the only one attested for Kamose.

By the end of the reign of Aawoserra Apopi, one of the last Hyksos kings of the Fifteenth Dynasty, Hyksos forces had been routed from Middle Egypt and had been pulled back northward and regrouped in the vicinity of the entrance of the Fayyum at Atfih. This great Hyksos king had outlived his first Egyptian contemporary, Seqenenra Tao II, and was still on the throne (albeit of a much reduced kingdom) at the end of Kamose's reign. The last Hyksos ruler(s) of the Fifteenth Dynasty undoubtedly had (a) relatively short reign(s) falling some time within the first half of the reign of Ahmose, Kamose's successor and the founder of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

[edit] Under Ahmose

Ahmose, the first king of the Eighteenth Dynasty or new kingdom, may have been on the Theban throne for some time before he resumed the war against the Hyksos.

The details of his military campaigns are taken from the account on the walls of the tomb of another Ahmose, a soldier from El-Kab, a town in southern Upper Egypt, whose father had served under Seqenenra Tao II, and whose family had long been nomarchs of the district. It seems that several campaigns against the stronghold at Avaris were needed before the Hyksos were finally dislodged and driven from Lower Egypt. When this occurred is not known with certainty. Some authorities place the expulsion as early as Ahmose's fourth year, while Donald Redford, whose chronological structure has been adopted here, places it as late as the king's fifteenth year. The soldier Ahmose specifically states that he followed on foot as King Ahmose rode to war in his chariot. This is the first mention of the use of the horse and chariot by the Egyptians. In the repeated fighting around Avaris, the soldier captured prisoners and carried off several hands, which when reported to the royal herald resulted in his being awarded the "Gold of Valor" on three separate occasions. The actual fall of Avaris is only briefly mentioned: "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" (ANET, pp.233f).

After the fall of Avaris, the fleeing Hyksos were pursued by the Egyptian army across northern Sinai and into southern Canaan. Here, in the Negev desert between Rafah and Gaza, the fortified town of Sharuhen was reduced after, according to the soldier from El-Kab, a long three-year siege operation. How soon after the sack of Avaris this Asiatic campaign took place is uncertain. One can reasonably conclude that the thrust into southern Canaan probably followed the Hyksos’ eviction from Avaris fairly closely, but, given a period of protracted struggle before Avaris fell and possibly more than one season of campaigning before the Hyksos were shut up in Sharuhen, the chronological sequence must remain uncertain.

[edit] Later Times

The Hyksos continued to play a role in Egyptian literature as a synonym for "Asiatic" down to Hellenistic times. The term was frequently evoked against such groups as the Semites settled in Aswan or the Delta, and this may have led the Egyptian priest and historian Manetho to identify the coming of the Hyksos with the sojourn in Egypt of Joseph and his brothers, and helped modern historians identify the expulsion of the Hyksos with the Exodus. It may also indicate that the "expulsion" of the Hyksos reported in the Egyptian records mainly refers to the expulsion of the Semitic rulers and military/political elite and does not indicate a mass expulsion of the lower classes who, in the Ancient World, were traditionally exploited by their conquerors rather than expelled or massacred.

There seems to be slight evidence that the Kings of the 19th Egyptian Dynasty may have had some Hyksos connections:

  • Ramesses I had hereditary estates in the vicinity of Avaris.
  • Ramesses II celebrated the 400th anniversary of the worship of Sutekh, in honor of his father, Seti I (Seth was identified by the Hyksos with Baal).
  • Ramesses II adopted a Semitic name for one of his favourite daughters (Bint Anath meaning "the daughter of the goddess Anath"). He also dedicated several of his favourite chariot horses to Anath and named them accordingly.
  • All the early Ramessides promoted Asiatics to positions of prominence in the civil administration.
  • The anti-Hyksos invectives, found during the first part of the 18th Dynasty are almost wholly lacking.
  • Pharaoh Ramesses II moved his capital city back to Avaris - and named it after himself (Pr Rameses).

With the chaos at the end of the 19th Dynasty, the first kings of the 20th Dynasty in the Elephantine Stele and the papyrus Harris re-invigorated an anti-Hyksos stance to strengthen their nativistic reaction towards the Asiatic settlers of the north, who may again have been expelled from the country.

The story of the Hyksos was known to the Greeks, whom attempted to identify it within their own mythology with the expulsion of Belus (Baal?) and the daughters of Danaos, associated with the origin of the Argive dynasty.

[edit] Summary

The Hyksos were Asiatics who filtered into the eastern Egyptian Delta around the middle of the Thirteenth Dynasty taking advantage of a period of internal Egyptian weakness, probably bringing with them and using to their own advantage, the chariot. The Thirteenth Dynasty rulers had moved the capital of the country north to a centrally located town called Itjtawy near Memphis, near the apex of the Delta. Seizing the kingship, the Hyksos ruled Egypt for over one hundred years, composing the Fifteenth Dynasty. The heterogeneous Sixteenth Dynasty was partly Hyksos, but also composed of local Egyptian rulers who had no choice but to go along with their new overlords. This general period of Egyptian weakness and foreign occupation is called the Second Intermediate Period, or more popularly, the Hyksos Period. The local princes in Thebes in the south formed the Seventeenth Dynasty when the Hyksos overran Itjtawy and forced the ephemeral rulers there into subservience. These vigorous Theban rulers kept the flame of Egyptian independence alive and finally were able to lead a war of liberation that expelled the Asiatics. The Hyksos rulers and their military forces were driven from Egypt. Egypt was free, and Ahmose and his successors of the Eighteenth Dynasty could turn to the task of reconstruction. Some historians have linked the biblical story of Joseph with the Hyksos regime.

[edit] Hyksos in popular culture

The invasion and subsequent expulsion of the Hyksos form an integral part in the fictional 'Egypt' novels by Wilbur Smith, notably River God, The Seventh Scroll and Warlock ("Egyptian Series") as well as in the Lords of the Lands trilogy by Pauline Gedge which chronicles the campaigns of Sequenenre, Kamose and Ahmose against them.

[edit] References

  • von Beckerath, Jürgen. Untersuchungen zur politischen Geschichte der zweiten Zwischenzeit in Ägypten (1965) [Ägyptologische Forschungen, Heft 23]. Basic to any study of this period.
  • Gardiner, Sir Alan. Egypt of the Pharaohs (1964, 1961). Still the classic work in English. See pp. 61-71 for his examination of chronology.
  • Hayes, William C. "Chronology: Egypt—To End of Twentieth Dynasty." Chapter 6, Volume 1 of The Cambridge Ancient History, Revised Edition. Cambridge, 1964. With excellent bibliography up to 1964. This is CAH’s chronology volume: A basic work.
  • Hayes, William C. "Egypt: From the Death of Ammenemes III to Seqenenre II," in Chapter 2, Volume 2 of The Cambridge Ancient History, Revised Edition (1965) (Fascicle 6).
  • Helck, Wolfgang. Die Beziehungen Ägyptens zu Vorderasien im 3. und 2. Jahrtausend v. Chr. (1962) [Ägyptologische Abhandlungen, Band 5]. An important review article that should be consulted is by William A. Ward, in Orientalia 33 (1964), pp. 135-140.
  • Hornung, Erik. Untersuchungen zur Chronologie und Geschichte des Neuen Reiches (1964) [Ägyptologische Abhandlungen, Band 11]. With an excellent fold-out comparative chronological table at the back with 18th, 19th, and 20th Dynasty dates.
  • James, T.G.H. "Egypt: From the Expulsion of the Hyksos to Amenophis I," in Chapter 2, Volume 2 of The Cambridge Ancient History, Revised Edition (1965) (Fascicle 34).
  • Montet, Pierre. Eternal Egypt (1964). Translated by Doreen Weightman.
  • Pritchard, James B. (Editor). Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd Edition. (1969). This edition has an extensive Supplement at the back containing additional translations. The standard collection of excellent English translations of ancient Near Eastern texts.
  • Redford, Donald B. History and Chronology of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt: Seven Studies. (1967).
  • Redford, Donald B. "The Hyksos Invasion in History and Tradition" Orientalia 39 (1970).
  • Van Seters, John. The Hyksos: A New Investigation (1967). Two reviews of this volume should be consulted: Kitchen, Kenneth A. "Further Notes on New Kingdom Chronology and History," in Chronique d’Égypte XLIII, No. 86, 1968, pp. 313-324; and Simpson, William J. Review, in Journal of the American Oriental Society 90 (1970), pp. 314-315.
  • Säve-Söderbergh, T. "The Hyksos Rule in Egypt," Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 37 (1951), pp. 53-71.
  • Winlock, H. E. The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes (1947). Still a classic with much important information.
  • Yohanan Aharoni & Michael Avi-Yonah, "The MacMillan Bible Atlas", Revised Edition, pp. 30-31 (1968 & 1977 by Carta Ltd.).

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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Hyksos

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