Hershel Shanks

Western Semites come to trade in Egypt. The clan leader, named Abisha, who leans over an ibex, bears the title hk3 hÉ3s.t, Egyptian for “Hyksos.” Painted on a tomb wall at Beni-hassan about 1890 B.C., this fresco confirms the long history of Semite contact with Egypt.

Many people know this scene from numerous painted copies that appear in texts and in art books, but few have seen the original shown here. Restoration efforts are responsible for the distinctly brighter colors of the erect man behind Abisha.

The rulers of Egypt during the XVth, or “Hyksos,” Dynasty were Canaanites native to the Syro-Palestinian region who took advantage of Egyptian weakness at the end of the Middle Kingdom (c. 1670 B.C.) and extended their influence into upper Egypt. Hyksos rule in Egypt lasted about 100 years, roughly from 1670 to 1570 B.C. Their final defeat and expulsion is credited to Pharaoh Ahmose, who reigned from about 1570 to 1545 B.C.

It is not known by what name the Hyksos called themselves. Hyksos is a (Greek word derived from an Egyptian phrase hk3 hÉ3sw.t meaning “ruler of foreign lands.”