Tel Habuwa excavations reveal the conquest of Tjaru by Ahmose I
“After the conclusion of the treaty they left with their families and chattels, not fewer than two hundred and forty thousand people, and crossed the desert into Syria. Fearing the Assyrians, who dominated over Asia at that time, they built a city in the country which we now call Judea. It was large enough to contain this great number of men and was called Jerusalem.”
–Josephus, Against Apion 1.73.7, quoting Manetho’s Aegyptiaca
In the Second Intermediate Period (18th–16th centuries B.C.E.), towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age, the West Asian (Canaanite) Hyksos controlled Lower (Northern) Egypt. In the 16th century, Ahmose I overthrew the Hyksos and initiated the XVIII dynasty and the New Kingdom of Egypt.
Archaeological discoveries at Tel Habuwa (also known as Tell el-Habua or Tell-Huba), a site associated with ancient Tjaru (Tharo), shed light on Ahmose’s campaign. A daybook entry in the famous Rhind Mathematical Papyrus notes that Ahmose seized control of Tjaru before laying siege the Hyksos at their capital in Avaris.
Excavations at the site, located two miles east of the Suez Canal, have uncovered evidence of battle wounds on skeletons discovered in two-story administrative structures dating to the Hyksos and New Kingdom occupations. The site showed evidence of burned buildings, as well as massive New Kingdom grain silos that would have been able to feed a large number of Egyptian troops. After Ahmose took the city and defeated the Hyksos, he expanded the town and built several nearby forts to protect Egypt’s eastern border. Tjaru was first discovered in 2003, but until now, the excavation only uncovered the New Kingdom military fort and silos. This new discovery confirms a decisive moment in the expulsion of the Hyksos previously known from textual sources.
Josephus identifies the Israelite Exodus with the expulsion of the Hyksos “shepherd kings.” Read more about archaeological evidence for the Israelites in Egypt and new scholarship on the Exodus in our FREE eBook Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus.
The Hyksos are well known from ancient texts, and their expulsion was recorded in later ancient Egyptian historical narratives. The third-century B.C.E. Egyptian historian Manetho–whose semi-accurate histories stand out as valuable resources for cataloging Egyptian kingship–wrote of the Hyksos’ violent entry into Egypt from the north, and the founding of their monumental capital at Avaris, a city associated with the famous excavations at Tell ed-Dab’a. After the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt, Manetho reports that they wandered the desert before establishing the city of Jerusalem.
While Josephus cites Manetho’s history associating the Israelites with the Hyksos, many modern scholars see problems with Manetho’s conflation of the expulsion of the Hyksos and the Biblical narrative. Manetho lived many centuries after these events took place, and he may have combined two different narratives, wittingly or unwittingly, when associating the Hyksos and Israelites. Ahmose’s defeat of the Hyksos occurred centuries before the traditional date of the Exodus. In addition, the basic premise of the Hyksos and Exodus histories differ: the Hyksos were expelled rulers of Egypt, not slaves, and they were forced out, not pursued.
The expulsion of the Hyksos may not have been a single event, and many still read Manetho’s texts on the Hyksos expulsion as a record of the Israelites’ Exodus. After the Hyksos were defeated by Ahmose, some Hyksos people likely remained in Egypt, perhaps as a subjugated class. The Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut (1489–1469 B.C.E.) recorded the banishment of a group of Asiatics from Avaris, the former Hyksos capital. While this second expulsion would still have been centuries before the traditional date of the Exodus, there may exist parallels between these events and the Exodus narrative, or the earlier Biblical accounts of Abraham, Sarah and Lot’s own expulsion from Egypt in Genesis 12:19.
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in March 2013.
Dig into more than 9,000 articles in the Biblical Archaeology Society’s vast library plus much more with an All-Access pass.
The world of the Bible is knowable. We can learn about the society where the ancient Israelites, and later Jesus and the Apostles, lived through the modern discoveries that provide us clues.
Biblical Archaeology Review is the guide on that fascinating journey. Here is your ticket to join us as we discover more and more about the biblical world and its people.
Each issue of Biblical Archaeology Review features lavishly illustrated and easy-to-understand articles such as:
• Fascinating finds from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament periods
• The latest scholarship by the world's greatest archaeologists and distinguished scholars
• Stunning color photographs, informative maps, and diagrams
• BAR's unique departments
• Reviews of the latest books on biblical archaeology
The BAS Digital Library includes:
• 45+ years of Biblical Archaeology Review
• 20+ years of Bible Review online, providing critical interpretations of biblical texts
• 8 years of Archaeology Odyssey online, exploring the ancient roots of the Western world in a scholarly and entertaining way,
• The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land
• Video lectures from world-renowned experts.
• Access to 50+ curated Special Collections,
• Four highly acclaimed books, published in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution: Aspects of Monotheism, Feminist Approaches to the Bible, The Rise of Ancient Israel and The Search for Jesus.
The All-Access membership pass is the way to get to know the Bible through biblical archaeology.
Sign up to receive our email newsletter and never miss an update.
Dig into the world of Bible history with a BAS All-Access membership. Biblical Archaeology Review in print. AND online access to the treasure trove of articles, books, and videos of the BAS Library. AND free Scholar Series lectures online. AND member discounts for BAS travel and live online events.Subscribe Today