The 88th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2019)

Hyksos in Egypt – utilising biodistance methods to interpret archaeological and textual evidence from Tell el-Dab’a


1Department of Archaeology, Anthropology, and Forensic Science, Bournemouth University, 2Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton.

March 29, 2019 , CC Ballroom BC Add to calendar

Archaeological studies regarding the ethnogenetic nature of past communities have gained renewed interest due to advancements in bioarchaeological methods. The inclusion of biological information has not only assisted archaeological interpretations, but also repositioned the role of textual sources in current investigations.

According to contemporary textual sources, a group of Asiatics called the Hyksos decentralised the ancient Egyptian Middle Kingdom (MK) and assumed power, leading to the Second Intermediate Period (SIP, ca 1640-1530 BCE). Excavations at Tell el-Dab’a, the Hyksos capital, have revealed a fluent mixture of both Egyptian and Eastern Mediterranean cultural elements, but the lack of written sources by the settlers themselves has left many open questions regarding social structure and even the nature of immigration.

To explore kinship structures and postmarital residence patterns of the Hyksos, biological information was analysed together with archaeological evidence. Skeletal human remains from Tell el-Dab’a (n=126) were analysed for dental nonmetrics and odontometrics, with rare dental traits used to investigate familial relationships. Data was grouped according to a variety of factors, including sex, phase and spatial organisation.

The results highlight the importance and interwoven relationship of biological and contextual information. Pooled results showed little change in the biological affinities of the Tell el-Dab’a population when transitioning from the end of MK to SIP (MD=0.005 with √var(MMD)]=0.13). While this outcome was also supported by archaeological evidence, shedding further light into the socio-political aspects of the written sources, the results also revealed more information of the Tell el-Dab’a people beyond the archaeological record.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program(grant agreement No 668640).