New Kingdom Period Begins in Egypt Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Ahmose’s military victory reunified Egypt and established the foundation for Egyptian domestic, religious, and cultural achievement throughout the New Kingdom and Near East.

Summary of Event

The ancient Egyptian Turin King List identifies an end to Hyksos rule in Egypt by the Seventeenth Dynasty (1580-1570 b.c.e.). Under the leadership of Ahmose I, the expulsion of the Hyksos kings reestablished Thebes as the capital of Egypt and Egyptian dynastic rule throughout a reunified Egypt. Ahmose’s reign formed the basis for Theban dynastic dominance and the foundation for the New Kingdom dynasties (Eighteenth through Twentieth, c. 1570-c. 1069 b.c.e.). The Egyptian need, under Ahmose I, to secure and to defend the borders of Egypt led to expansion into the Near East and linked Egypt to the economic prosperity of the New Kingdom empire. Apophis Kamose Ahhotep Ahmose I Thutmose III Ramses II Ahmose, son of Ebana Ahmose-Pennekheb

Hyksos is the ancient Greek equivalent for an Egyptian word that translates as “rulers of the foreign countries.” Egyptians identify the Hyksos as a group of foreign rulers in Egypt on the Turin King List who occupied Egypt during the Fifteenth Dynasty (c. 1650-1540 b.c.e.).

During the first century c.e., the Roman historian Flavius Josephus erroneously identified the Hyksos with the Shepherd Kings of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Dynasties (c. 1782-after 1650 b.c.e.). Today, scholars use the term “Hyksos” to identify the kings listed in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties of the Turin King List.

There is no clear division between the dynastic rule of the Fifteenth and the Sixteenth Dynasties. Recent scholarship has shown that many of the Sixteenth Dynasty kings ruled simultaneously and based their claim to rule on lineage established during the Fifteenth Dynasty. Interpretations vary, but in general the Sixteenth Dynasty is perceived as a loosely allied group of minor kings whose rule was limited geographically and politically. The Seventeenth Dynasty rulers came from Thebes and were of Egyptian descent. Although evidence provides for earlier battles and thrusts into Hyksos strongholds by the Egyptians, none succeeded to eliminate the Hyksos rule in Egypt until Ahmose’s victory at Avaris (Tell el-Babՙa).

After nearly 108 years of control under the Hyksos occupation, Ahmose I reestablished control over both Upper and Lower Egypt through a series of military campaigns that pushed the Hyksos back into southern and coastal Palestine. Ahmose’s victory sparked a rebirth of Egyptian domination in Egypt and laid the foundations for future Egyptian military expansion and final annexation of the Near East by Thutmose III. It was not until the treaty of Ramses II with the Hittites that Egyptian control ended in the Near East.

Egypt’s attempts to expel the Hyksos can be divided into three distinct efforts. The first clash with the Hyksos was made by Sekenenre (r. c. 1600-1571 b.c.e.), founder of the Seventeenth Dynasty and father of Ahmose. According to the Ramesside Papyrus Sallier I, Egypt is described as a divided land with Sekenenre ruling from Thebes in the south and the Hyksos king, Apophis, from his capital at Avaris in the north. The papyrus does not preserve the results of the battle between Apophis and Sekenenre, but the mummy of Sekenenre is preserved and shows numerous head wounds. Sekenenre’s wounds were made by a Syrian-Palestinian type of battle ax and the body was buried only after being left and exposed on the battlefield.

After Sekenenre’s death, the offensive against the Hyksos was undertaken by Kamose. His military campaigns against the Hyksos are recorded on the Carnarvon Tablet I and on two Karnak stelae that relate that the beginning of Kamose’s rule was peaceful until the third year of his reign, when he entered into battle. In his first battle, Kamose defeated the vassal Teti, son of Pepi, at Nefrusi (near Beni Hasan). In Kamose’s second battle, he tried to secure the Egyptian south and fought against the kingdom of Kush, which held Nubia as far south as the First Cataract, and then he advanced to Buhen. The third encounter by Kamose was in response to Apophis’s attempt to reclaim Kush. Kamose returned to fight in the north when Apophis attempted to reestablish strategic control in the south. Apophis attempted to draw Kamose back to the south, but his message never reached Kamose. Instead of returning south, Kamose remained in the north to secure the Faiyum district. Written accounts about Kamose in the north suggest that Kamose attacked the Hyksos fleet in the northern Delta, but there is no evidence that Kamose reached Avaris.

The third phase of the Hyksos wars was taken up by Ahmose I, son of Sekenenre, who succeeded to the Egyptian throne on the death of Kamose, his uncle. Ahmose’s mother, Queen Ahhotep, became regent for the young king and is thought by scholars to have had strong ancestral connections in the north, which may have laid the foundations for future military assistance for her son.

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Accounts of Ahmose’s campaigns against the Hyksos are recorded in autobiographical inscriptions in the tombs of two soldiers who served Ahmose: Ahmose, son of Ebana, and Ahmose-Pennekheb. Both served with Ahmose I in northern Egypt and both followed him into Palestine. Only Ahmose, son of Ebana, served in the south against the Nubians.

Written entries on the reverse of the Rhind Papyrus record Ahmose’s victories in Memphis and at the fortress of Sile (Tjel). The battle sequence suggests that Ahmose was a shrewd military strategist. By passing Avaris along the river and taking Memphis and Sile, he effectively cut the Hyksos off from Palestine. The inscription of Ahmose, son of Ebana, indicates that a series of battles, possibly to stabilize the region, took place before Ahmose assaulted Avaris. Manetho, the third century b.c.e. Greco-Roman historian, relates that a long siege of Avaris occurred and that defeat of the Hyksos at Avaris was the result of a treaty, not military force, permitting the inhabitants of Avaris to abandon the city. Both possibilities may be true. The location of the destruction is within the main Hyksos citadel, not throughout the city. The citizens of Avaris could have left peacefully although the Hyksos citadel was destroyed.

Despite the capture of Avaris, Egypt remained vulnerable to incursions and attacks from the northeast Delta. The region of southern Palestine was a valuable economic base for the Hyksos. Ahmose’s attack on Sharuhen in southern Palestine recounted by Ahmose, son of Ebana, was a logical military strategy. It stabilized the region for Egypt and made attacks against other Palestinian towns easier. In this way, Ahmose eliminated the Hyksos trading routes along the Pelusaic Branch of the Nile, strategic areas at Tell el-Yahudiyya, and pasture sites at the Wadi Tumilat. The economic benefits of control for Egypt were tremendous.

Significance

The inland Palestinian cities and northern Syrian sites taken by Thutmose III during the Eighteenth Dynasty reveal the economic importance of Ahmose’s earlier inroads. They paved the way for Thutmose III to place the politically powerful kingdom of the Mitanni under the military rule of Egypt.

The economic impact of the Hyksos in Egypt was immense. During Hyksos occupation, Egypt fared badly economically, as it became more and more isolated from the Near East, commercial goods, and natural resources. Once the Hyksos were driven from Egypt under Ahmose I, Egypt was the beneficiary of the Hyksos trade routes, Egypt was again politically united as a nation, and it became a force in the Near East.

The reconquest of Lower Egypt by Ahmose I and the subsequent reunification of Egypt inaugurated an era of unprecedented development for Egypt in the arts, architecture, and trade; expansion through military dominance in the Near East; and the supremacy of the god Amen in Egyptian religion. The Hyksos provided the Egyptians with the means to achieve military power through their introduction of the composite bow, the chariot, and the horse to Egypt.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Baker, Rosalie F., and Charles F, Baker. Ancient Egyptians: People of the Pyramids. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. An overview of Egyptian history and culture, with a section on Ahmose.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bietak, M. “Egypt and Canaan during the Middle Bronze Age.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 282 (1991): 28-72. Significant investigation and information for the Middle Bronze Age.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Goedicke, Hans. Studies About Kamose and Ahmose. Baltimore, Md.: Halgo, 1995. A collection of essays by a prominent Egyptologist.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Oren, E. D., ed. The Hyksos: New Historical and Archeological Perspectives. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum, 1997. Excellent summaries of archaeological data, analyses, and theory.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Redford, D. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992. Good overview of the period.

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