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Map of ancient Lower Egypt showing Avaris
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Shown within Egypt
Location Sharqia Governorate, Egypt
Region Lower Egypt
Coordinates 30°47′14.7″N31°49′16.9″E / 30.787417°N 31.821361°E / 30.787417; 31.821361
An official wearing the "mushroom-headed" hairstyle also seen in contemporary paintings of Western Asiatic foreigners, from Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos. Dated to 1802-1640 BC. Staatliche Sammlung fur Agyptische Kunst. Asiatic official Munich 01.JPG
An official wearing the "mushroom-headed" hairstyle also seen in contemporary paintings of Western Asiatic foreigners, from Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos. Dated to 1802–1640 BC. Staatliche Sammlung für Ägyptische Kunst.

Avaris ( /ˈævərɪs/ ; Egyptian: ḥw.t wꜥr.t, sometimes hut-waret; Ancient Greek : Αὔαρις, romanized: Auaris; Greek : Άβαρις, romanized: Ávaris) [5] was the Hyksos capital of Egypt located at the modern site of Tell el-Dab'a in the northeastern region of the Nile Delta. [6] As the main course of the Nile migrated eastward, its position at the hub of Egypt's delta emporia made it a major capital suitable for trade. [7] It was occupied from about the 18th century BC until its capture by Ahmose I.



The name in the Egyptian language of the 2nd millennium BC was probably pronounced *Ḥaʔət-Waʕrəʔ “House of the Region” and denotes the capital of an administrative division of the land (wʕr.t). Today, the name Hawara survives, referring to the site at the entrance to Faiyum. Alternatively, Clement of Alexandria referred to the name of this city as "Athyria". [8]


Scarab bearing the name of the Hyksos King Apepi, now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston ScarabBearingNameOfApophis MuseumOfFineArtsBoston.png
Scarab bearing the name of the Hyksos King Apepi, now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In 1885, the Swiss Édouard Naville started the first excavations in the area around Tell-el-Daba. Between 1941 and 1942, Labib Habachi, an Egyptian Egyptologist first forwarded the idea that the site could be identified with Avaris. Between 1966 and 1969 and since 1975, the site has been excavated by the Austrian Archaeological Institute. [9] Using radar imaging technology, its scientists could identify in 2010 the outline of the city including streets, houses, a port, and a side arm of the River Nile passing through the city. [10]

The site at Tell el-Dab'a, covering an area of about 2 square kilometers, is in ruins today, but excavations have shown that, at one point, it was a well-developed center of trade with a busy harbour catering to over 300 ships during a trading season. [11] Artifacts excavated at a temple erected in the Hyksos period have produced goods from all over the Aegean world. The temple even has Minoan-like wall paintings that are similar to those found on Crete at the Palace of Knossos. A large mudbrick tomb has also been excavated to the west of the temple, where grave goods, such as copper swords, have been found.


The site was originally founded by Amenemhat I on the eastern branch of the Nile in the Delta. Its close proximity to Asia made it a popular town for Asiatic immigrants. Many of these immigrants were from Palestine and they were culturally Egyptianized, using Egyptian pottery, but also retained many aspects of their own culture, as can be seen from the various Asiatic burials including weapons of Syro-Palestinian origin. One palatial district appears to have been abandoned as a result of an epidemic during the 13th dynasty. [12] In the 18th century BC, the Hyksos conquered Lower Egypt and set up Avaris as their capital. Kamose, the last pharaoh of the Seventeenth Dynasty, besieged Avaris but was unable to defeat the Hyksos there. A few decades later, Ahmose I captured Avaris and overran the Hyksos. The pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty set up a capital in Thebes and the palatial complex at Avaris was briefly abandoned, but areas such as the Temple of Seth and G6 region remained continuously occupied. [13] After Ramesses II constructed the city of Pi-Ramesses roughly 2km to the north and "superseding Avaris", [14] large portions of the former site of Avaris were used by the inhabitants of Pi-Ramesses as a cemetery [15] and part of it was used as a major navy base, [16] while the "Harbor of Avaris" toponym continued to be used for Avaris' harbor through the Ramesside period. [17] [18] The name "Avaris" is also referred to in Papyrus Sallier I in the late 13th century BC. [19] In addition, the 'Avaris' toponym is also known to Manetho in the 3rd century BC, quoted by Josephus in his Against Apion 1.14. [20]

Urban chronology

Amenemhet I (12th) planned a settlement, called Hutwaret located in the 19th Nome, circa 1930 BC. It was a small Egyptian town until about 1830 BC when it began to grow by immigration of Caananites (Levant Middle Bronze Age IIA) By 1800 BC it was a much larger trade colony under Egyptian control. Over the next 100 years immigration increased the size of the city. [21] Scarabs with the name "Retjenu" have been found in Avaris, also dating to the 12th Dynasty (1991-1802 BCE). [22]

At about 1780 a temple to Set was built. The Canaanites living at Avaris considered the Egyptian god Set to be the Canaanite god Hadad. Both had dominion over the weather. [23]

Around 1700 BC a temple district to Canaanite Asherah and Egyptian Hathor was built in the eastern part of the city. From 1700 onward social stratification begins and an elite arise. [24]

In 1650 the Hyksos arrive and the city grows to 250 ha. It is believed that Avaris was the largest city in the world from 1670 to 1557 BC. A large citadel was built around 1550. [25]

Minoan connection

Fragment of a Minoan fresco found in Avaris, Egypt. This fresco is very similar to another fresco from Knossos, Crete. Minoan fresko avaris 2.png
Fragment of a Minoan fresco found in Avaris, Egypt. This fresco is very similar to another fresco from Knossos, Crete.

Avaris, along with Tel Kabri in Israel and Alalakh in Syria, also has a record of Minoan civilization, which is otherwise quite rare in the Levant. Manfred Bietak, an Austrian archaeologist and the excavator of Tell Dab'a, has speculated that there was close contact with the rulers of Avaris, and that the large building featuring the frescoes allowed the Minoans to have a ritual life in Egypt. French archaeologist Yves Duhoux proposed the existence of a Minoan 'colony' on an island in the Nile delta. [26]

See also

Related Research Articles

Thebes, Egypt Ancient Egyptian city

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Ahmose I Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt

Ahmose I was a pharaoh and founder of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, classified as the first dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt, the era in which ancient Egypt achieved the peak of its power. He was a member of the Theban royal house, the son of pharaoh Seqenenre Tao and brother of the last pharaoh of the Seventeenth dynasty, Kamose. During the reign of his father or grandfather, Thebes rebelled against the Hyksos, the rulers of Lower Egypt. When he was seven years old, his father was killed, and he was about ten when his brother died of unknown causes after reigning only three years. Ahmose I assumed the throne after the death of his brother, and upon coronation became known as nb-pḥtj-rꜥ "The Lord of Strength is Ra".

Hyksos Asian invaders of Egypt, established 15th dynasty

Hyksos is a term which, in modern Egyptology, designates the kings of the Fifteenth Dynasty of Egypt. The seat of power of these kings was the city of Avaris in the Nile delta, from where they ruled over Lower and Middle Egypt up to Cusae. In the Aegyptiaca, a history of Egypt written by the Greco-Egyptian priest and historian Manetho in the 3rd century BC, the term Hyksos is used ethnically to designate people of probable West Semitic, Levantine origin. While Manetho portrayed the Hyksos as invaders and oppressors, this interpretation is questioned in modern Egyptology. Instead, Hyksos rule might have been preceded by groups of Canaanite peoples who gradually settled in the Nile delta from the end of the Twelfth Dynasty onwards and who may have seceded from the crumbling and unstable Egyptian control at some point during the Thirteenth Dynasty.

Manfred Bietak is an Austrian archaeologist. He is professor emeritus of Egyptology at the University of Vienna, working as the Principal investigator for an ERC Advanced Grant Project “The Hyksos Enigma” and Editor in Chief of the Journal “Egypt and the Levant” and of four series of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Oriental and European Archaeology (2016–2020).

Fifteenth Dynasty of Egypt

The Fifteenth Dynasty was a foreign dynasty of ancient Egypt. It was founded by Salitis, a Hyksos from West Asia whose people had invaded the country and conquered Lower Egypt. The 15th, 16th, and 17th Dynasties of ancient Egypt are often combined under the group title, Second Intermediate Period. The 15th Dynasty dates approximately from 1650 to 1550 BC.

Pithom Ancient human settlement

Pithom was an ancient city of Egypt. Multiple references in ancient Greek, Roman, and Hebrew Bible sources exist for this city, but its exact location remains somewhat uncertain. A number of scholars identified it as the later archaeological site of Tell El Maskhuta. Others identified it as the earlier archaeological site of Tell El Retabeh.

Fourteenth Dynasty of Egypt Ancient Egyptain dynasty during the Second Intermediate Period

The Fourteenth Dynasty of Egypt was a series of rulers reigning during the Second Intermediate Period over the Nile Delta region of Egypt. It lasted between 75 and 155 years, depending on the scholar. The capital of the dynasty was probably Avaris. The 14th Dynasty existed concurrently with the 13th Dynasty based in Memphis. The rulers of the 14th Dynasty are commonly identified by Egyptologists as being of Canaanite (Semitic) descent, owing to the distinct origins of the names of some of their kings and princes, like Ipqu, Yakbim, Qareh, or Yaqub-Har. Names in relation with Nubia are also recorded in two cases, king Nehesy and queen Tati.

Pi-Ramesses Capital of the ancient Egyptian 19th dynasty

Pi-Ramesses was the new capital built by the Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Ramesses II at Qantir, near the old site of Avaris. The city had served as a summer palace under Seti I, and may have been founded by Ramesses I while he served under Horemheb.

Labib Habachi

Labib Habachi was an influential Coptic Egyptian Egyptologist.


Seuserenre Khyan was an Hyksos king of the Fifteenth Dynasty of Egypt, ruling over Lower Egypt in the second half of the 17th century BCE. His royal name Seuserenre translates as "The one whom Re has caused to be strong." Khyan bears the titles of an Egyptian king, but also the title ruler of the foreign land (heqa-khaset). The later title is the typical designation of the Hyksos rulers.

Sakir-Har was an Hyksos ruler over some part of Lower Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, possibly in the early 16th century BC. Sakir-Har is attested by a single inscription on a doorjamb excavated at Tell el-Dab'a—ancient Avaris—by Manfred Bietak in the 1990s. The doorjamb, now in Cairo under the catalog number Cairo TD-8316, bears his partial royal titulary in the manner of the Ancient Egyptian, showing his Nebti and Golden Falcon names, as well as his nomen. The doorjamb reads

[Horus who... ...], The possessor of the Wadjet and Nekhbet diadems who subdues the bow people. The Golden Falcon who establishes his boundary. The heka-khawaset, Sakir-Har.

Sheshi Egyptian pharaoh

Maaibre Sheshi was a ruler of areas of Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period. The dynasty, chronological position, duration and extent of his reign are uncertain and subject to ongoing debate. The difficulty of identification is mirrored by problems in determining events from the end of the Middle Kingdom to the arrival of the Hyksos in Egypt. Nonetheless, Sheshi is, in terms of the number of artifacts attributed to him, the best-attested king of the period spanning the end of the Middle Kingdom and the Second Intermediate period; roughly from c. 1800 BC until 1550 BC. Hundreds of scaraboid seals bearing his name have been found throughout Canaan, Egypt, Nubia, and as far away as Carthage, where some were still in use 1,500 years after his death.

Tell El-Daba Archaeological site in Egypt

Tell el-Dab'a is an archaeological site in the Nile Delta region of Egypt where Avaris, the capital city of the Hyksos, once stood. Avaris was occupied by Asiatics from the end of the 12th through the 13th Dynasty. The site is known primarily for its Minoan frescoes.


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Tell el-Yahudiyeh Ware

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  26. Duhoux, Yves (2003). Des minoens en Egypte? "Keftiou" et "les îles au milieu du Grand vert". Liège: Univ. Press. ISBN   90-429-1261-8.


Preceded by
Capital of Egypt
1785 BC - 1580 BC
Succeeded by

Coordinates: 30°47′15″N31°49′17″E / 30.787419°N 31.821367°E / 30.787419; 31.821367 (Avaris (Hatwaret, Rowaty, Tell ed-Dab'a))