Archaeologists believe they've uncovered an ancient Egyptian propaganda campaign and in the process busted a millennia-old myth. It centers around the Hyksos, the first known people of foreign origin to rule ancient Egypt. They seized power from the pharaohs around 1638 BCE and ruled for a century. More than a millennia later, an Egyptian priest is said to have described the Hyksos as barbarous invaders, per Haaretz. From such claims—and depictions of the Hyksos wearing multicolored clothing as opposed to the white robes of a typical Egyptian—sprung the legend of an invasion from the Near East. But a new study in PLOS ONE suggests nothing of the sort. An analysis of teeth from 75 people buried in the ancient Hyksos capital in the Nile Delta suggests the Hyksos weren't invaders but had been living in Egypt for generations before they rose to power.
Some 24 of 36 individuals buried in the 350 years before the Hyksos seized power were foreign-born, per Science. Archaeologists say a similar ratio was seen in those buried after the Hyksos came to power. Based on these findings, Chris Stantis of Bournemouth University in the UK believes the Hyksos were Egyptian-born descendants of immigrants who took advantage of a period of unrest. "Rather than the old scholastic theories of invasion, we see more people, especially women, migrating to Egypt before Hyksos rule, suggesting economic and cultural changes leading to foreign rule rather than violence," Stantis says. More research is needed to determine the precise history of the Hyksos, a name that translates to "rulers of foreign lands." But experts say the idea makes sense as there's little evidence of fighting to signify an invasion of the capital of Tell el-Dab'a. (Read more ancient Egypt stories.)