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Expelling the Hyksos I: Seqenenre, Kamose, Ahmose

Now that you have an understanding of who the Egyptians were and of their world view, we’ll look into the history of this period with Prof. Chris Eyre
Christopher Eyre, professor of Egyptology at Liverpool. Late in the period of political chaos that we refer to as the second intermediate period, the most important centre in Egypt was the delta city of a Avaris, ruled by the Hyksos king Apophis. Hyksos simply means foreign ruler in Egypt. Archaeologically, the city is comparable to Bronze Age sites in contemporary Palestine. This part of Egypt seems to have been ruled by a Palestinian immigrant elite. In contrast, in the South, the city of Thebes is ruled by a local ruler, and seems to be economically rather poorer. The first narrative of conflict between Thebes and Avaris comes in a later literary fragment, a conflict between Apophis and the king Seqenenre.
This is a very literary piece. It’s a trickster’s tale. Apophis has sent a letter to Seqenenre complaining that the Hippopotami in the Thebean palace pool are keeping him awake. The rest of the story is lost. But Seqenenre’s mummy has actually survive in the Thebean Necropolis. His head was smashed in. The holes in the head look as if they’ve been made by a Palestinian type axe, and he must either have died on the battlefield or by assassination. The narrative is then picked up at the end of the 17th dynasty by two stele of the king Kamose from Karnak.
In these, he complains bitterly that his area of power is sandwiched by Asiatic rule in the North, and Nubian rule in the South. He then gives an account of campaigns through middle Egypt, capturing large areas of territory, plundering widely, and in the end, besieging the city of Avaris. He doesn’t recount the end of the siege there. Presumably, he didn’t capture the city. Complete political control of Egypt comes in the reign of his successor, Ahmose, though the best narrative, here, is from one of Ahmose’s military officers, another Ahmose, whose parents, his mother Ibana and his father Baba, appear to have quite foreign names. But Ahmose was brought up in the town of El-Kab, just south of Luxor.
He tells how his father had been a soldier in the reign of Seqenenre. He himself fought under Kamose and Ahmose, and into the early 18th dynasty. But he gives an account of a string of battles which include the siege and capture of Avaris. In each battle, he tells how he captured or killed enemies. He carried off prisoners, male and female, and hands. Hands are the way, at that date, you refer to somebody you’ve killed. The hand appears to be a trophy that proves you actually did it. And consequently he is rewarded each time with gold, with slaves, with land. He becomes quite an important person.
The effect of these campaigns seems to be the establishment of a military elite in Egypt. We know from much later an account of the lands given to another admiral of Ahmose, a man called Neshi, whose family were fighting each other over the inheritance of lands as late as the reign of Ramses II. So we can see a picture of the lands that the Thebean regime captured being given to the military and providing the new hierarchy and the new elite or the 18th dynasty.

Now that you have an understanding of who the Egyptians were and of how they viewed their world view, we’ll look into the history of this period. Professor Chris Eyre takes us through the main events in this video.

Chris takes us through the efforts of three Egyptian rulers, Seqenenre, Kamose, and Ahmose, to rid Egypt of a foreign cohort at the end of Egypt’s Second Intermediate Period. In doing so, Egypt creates a military elite, and finds itself in an ideal position to expand into the Near East.

Once you have watched the video, I’m sure that Seqenenre is someone that you’d like to know more about. To this end, I have also uploaded an article with the kind permission of the American Research Centre in Egypt. The article is written by a University of Liverpool alumnus, Dr Garry Shaw, and is entitled ‘The Death of King Seqenenre Tao’. It appears in The Journal of the American Research Centre in Egypt volume 45 (2009), pages 159-176. You can access the article in the link at the bottom of the page.

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Superpowers of the Ancient World: the Near East

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