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Avaris (Egyptian: Hut-waret, Greek: Αὔαρις, Auaris),[1] was located[2] near modern Tell el-Dab'a in the northeastern region of the Nile Delta.[3][4] As the main course of the Nile migrated eastward and the delta sedimented up and moved with the river, its position at the hub of Egypt's delta emporia[5] made it a major administrative capital of the Hyksos and other traders.


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.[6] 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.

Towards the end of the Seventeenth dynasty, Kamose, the last king of the Seventeenth dynasty, besieged Avaris but could not dislodge the Hyksos, who were finally expelled from Egypt some eighteen years later by Ahmose I, the founder of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt[7] after a water-borne siege. The Hyksos capital was razed to the ground in the aftermath of the Egyptian triumph. Avaris was abandoned after the Hyksos expulsion throughout most of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt. In the Nineteenth dynasty, Ramesses built a palace nearby. Evidence has also been unearthed in Avaris that shows contact between early Mediterranean civilizations.

Etymology of the name

Hatwaret means "house of the department" and denotes the capital of an administrative division of the land. Both t's in the word were silent and it was vocalized something like "Hawara", which is the same name (even today) as the site at the entrance to the Faiyum, which in ancient times was also called Ha(t)ware(t) and Auaris.


In the Nineteenth dynasty of Egypt, Pharaoh Ramesses II built a palace near the old site of Avaris. The palace was called Pi-Ramesses Aa-nakhtu, meaning "House of Ramesses II, Great in Victory",[8] Ruins nearby previously served as a summer palace under Seti I and the site may have been used by Ramesses I while he served under Horemheb.

The decision by Ramesses II to transfer some of his staff to a residence this far north from Thebes was influenced by important geopolitical concerns. The palace was closer to Ramesses staging area for his frequent campaigns in the djadi along the watershed of the Jordan river, up to the border with the hostile Hittite Empire. Communications from messenders bringing Intelligence and diplomatic correspondance would reach the Pharaoh faster. The main corps of the army were encamped a few days ride away and could quickly be mobilized to deal with incursions into Canaan of enemies to include the Hittites, the Apiru, the Shasu nomads from Moab and the sea peoples.[9]

The site of Pi-Ramesses, recorded as being located on the then eastern most branch of the Nile, was lost for more than 3,000 years and was long considered the "Holy Grail" of Egyptology. The ruins at Tanis were discovered in the 1930s by Pierre Montet and the buildings and monuments of found led early archaeologists to erroneously identify Tanis as the site of Pi-Ramesses, based on the "masses of broken stonework which were visible in the ruins of San el-Hagar (ie. Tanis).[10] In the 1960s, Egyptologist Manfred Bietak traced all the former branches of the Nile and dated them by the pottery found on their former banks. When it was found that the Tanitic branch of the Nile (Tanis' location) did not exist during Ramesses reign while the Pelusiac branch was at that time the eastern most branch, excavations began at the site of the highest Rameside pottery location, Tell el-Dab´a and Qantir.[11] Although there was no trace of any previous habitation visible on the surface, discoveries soon identified the site as the Hyksos capital Avaris and found the Ramesside palace Pi-Ramesses.

Built on the banks of the Pelusiac branch of the nile and with a population of over 300,000, Pi-Ramesses flourished for more than a century after Ramesses death and poems were written over its splendour. The layout of the city, as shown by Ground-penetrating radar, consisted of a huge central temple, a large precinct of mansions bordering the river in the west set in a rigid grid pattern of streets and a disorderly collection of houses and workshops in the east. The palace of Ramesses is believed to lie beneath the modern village of Quantir. An Austrian team of archaeologists, headed by Manfred Bietak, who discovered the site, found evidence of many canals and lakes and have described the city as the Venice of Egypt. A surprising discovery in the excavated stables were small cisterns located adjacent to each of the estimated 460 horse tether points. Using mules, which are the same size as the horses of Ramesses day, it was found a double tethered horse would naturally use the cistern as a toilet leaving the stable floor clean and dry. According to the latest estimates Pi-Ramesses was spread over a vast area of about 6 km (4 mi) long by 3 km (2 mi) wide, .[10] This made it one of the largest cities of ancient Egypt.

It was originally thought the demise of Egyptian authority abroad during the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt made the palace less significant leading to it being abandoned as a royal residence.[12] It is now known that the Pelusiac branch of the nile began silting up c. 1060 BCE leaving the city without water when the river eventually reestablished a new course to the west now called the Tanitic branch. [2] The Twenty-first dynasty of Egypt established a city on the new branch establishing Djanet (Tanis) on its banks, 100 km (62 mi) to the north-west of Pi-Ramesses where it was capital of Lower Egypt for a time. The Pharaohs of the Twenty-first Dynasty transported many the old Ramesside temples, obelisks, stelas, statues and sphinxes from Pi-Ramesses to the new site. The obelisks and statues, the largest weighing over 200 tons, were transported in one piece while major buildings were dismantled into sections and reassembled at Tanis. Stone from the less important buildings was reused and recycled for the creation of new temples and buildings.[10]

Biblical Ramses

The place name Ramses (Hebrew: רַעְמְסֵס, Tiberian: ɾaʕəmses), sometimes Raamses or Ra'amses, occurs five times in the Tanakh: Genesis 47:11; Exodus 1:11, 12:37 and Numbers 33:3,5. The Septuagint equates this name with the Egyptian name Ramessu, hellenizing it as Hramessê (Koine Greek: ραμεσση, (ʰramɛsːe), whence Latin Ramesses, whence traditional English.

The location is synonymous with Goshen (Kessan in the Septuagint, Egyptian Pa-Kes, Greek Phacusa, modern Faqus), the land where Joseph and his descendants settled. According to the biblical account, the Israelites departed from Ramses in their exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:37).

Archeologists have not yet pinpointed the time or place of both major cities in the Exodus namely Pithom and Raamses, and some dispute its historicity. The Biblical Raamses is acknowledged to almost certainly be Ramesses II's vast capital city of Pi-Ramesses, located today at the sites of Tell el-Dab´a and Qantir respectively, whereas the Biblical Pithom or Pi(r)-(A)tum, (literally domain or house of the god Atum) is possibly located at Tell er-Retaba—as Kenneth Kitchen argues—rather than Tell el-Maskhuta as some writers previously thought.[13] These two sites, at Qantir and Tell er-Retaba, are 15 to 17 miles (27 km) apart.[14]

Minoan civilization connection

Besides Thera and Crete, only two other sites have a record of Minoan civilization besides Avaris. They are Tell Kabri, and Alalakh in Syria. It is speculated by the excavator of Tell Dab'a (Austrian, Bietak), that there was close contact with the rulers of Avaris, and the large building representing 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.[15] These finds may also imply the later arrival of the Sea Peoples.


  1. Holladay, John S. Jr. (1997). "The Eastern Nile Delta During the Hyksos and Pre-Hyksos Periods: Toward a Systemic/Socioeconomic Understanding." In Eliezer D. Oren (ed.), The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives. Philadelphia: The University Museum, 183-252.
  2. Avaris was once thought to be located at Tanis, in the 19th nome of Egypt
  3. at the juncture of the (8th), (14th), (19th) and (20th Nomes
  4. Baines and Ma'lek "Atlas of Ancient Egypt" p 15 nome list and map, p 167 enlarged map of the delta.
  5. Michael Grant "Rise of the Greeks"
  6. Booth, Charlotte The Hyksos Period in Egypt Shire Publications 2005 ISBN 978-0747806387 p40 [1]
  7. some claim that Kamose and Ahmose were the same person and that, after the capture of Avaris and the expulsion of the Hyksos made the founding of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt possible, Kamose changed his name (see discussion in Baines and Ma'lek)
  8. K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, William B. Eerdmans Co., 2003. p.255
  9. Manley, Bill (1995), "The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt" (Penguin, Harmondsworth)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Kitchen, p.255
  11. Nile Delta: a review of depositional environments and geological history. Geological Society of London, Special Publications; 1989; v. 41; p. 99-127
  12. Kitchen, pp.255-256
  13. Kitchen, pp.258-259
  14. Kitchen, p.258
  15. Duhoux, Yves (2003). Des minoens en Egypte? "Keftiou" et "les îles au milieu du Grand vert". Liège: Univ. Press. ISBN 90-429-1261-8. 
  • Reeves, Nicholas. Ancient Egypt, The Great Discoveries, a Year-by-Year Chronicle, Nicholas Reeves, (Thames and Hudson Ltd, London), c 2000. See 1987, Avaris and the Aegean: Minoan Frescoes in Egypt.
  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. IV, pg. 38. Entry on "Rameses" by Dr. R. W. Pierce, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI) 1988.
  • Bietak, Manfred. "Avaris : the capital of the Hyksos: recent excavations at Tell el-Dab´a" (British Museum Press for the Trustees of the British Museum, London) 1996.

External links

Coordinates: 30°47′N 31°50′E / 30.783°N 31.833°E / 30.783; 31.833

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Avaris. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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