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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Were the Hyksos Western Europeans?

My previous post, about the possible linkage of the YDNA profiles of the Egyptian Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty to modern Western Europeans, raises an interesting question:

‘Is it totally off the map that there could indeed be a logical explanation – reflecting incursions by proto-Celtic / proto-Teutonic invaders into the Eastern Mediterranean?’

The willingness of many to even consider this hypothesis is a casualty of the general preoccupation of historians with states and boundaries at the expense of a complementary consideration of processes and movements.

Let’s start by arguing that the bounded and exclusive Roman Empire and the accompanying Pax Romana were aberrations - and by noting that this aberrant period was bracketed by aggressive folk wanderings from northern tribes that directly threatened Roman power.

Indeed Rome itself was attacked in 387BC by Gallic tribes from the Danube, and eventually sacked in 410AD by the Visigoths who originated in the Ukraine.

Clearly, many of these migrations had significant push factors like crop failures consequent on abnormal climatic conditions, natural disasters (like earthquakes, floods and tsunamis), overpopulation, and the domino effects stemming from attacks on and the displacement of neighboring tribes.

But there were also the lures of plunder, easy living and glory.

So, setting the Roman Empire aside as a block to what was really a recurrent process of wandering tribal banditry, could invaders from the North have penetrated as far as Egypt?

Well, we have the example of the Vandals who crossed into Africa in 429AD and took control of the Maghreb. They were quite capable of fitting out and operating a fleet to undertake the shift from Spain to North Africa and back-up their conquest of coastal towns.

All that was needed for these kinds of long journey collective pillaging expeditions was a strong tribal political organization and an open pathway, gained through violence, to the granaries and livestock sources of the villages, towns and cities that they looted. Once agriculture had become established, the road was clear.

Clearly though, this strategy was not for the squeamish – the available food resources could not feed both the inhabitants and the intruders – massacre and dispossession were part of the game.

It must have been quite a gamble having to feed a population that was constantly on the move and one can postulate that the possibility of continued success would be a function of the richness of the country ahead, the strength of the opposition, the distances at which foragers could range effectively, and the size of the horde.

Apparently Procopius asserted that the Vandals and Alans numbered 80,000 when they moved to North Africa, which implies fielding an army of around 15,000 – 20,000.

So could the YDNA of grandfather Amenhotep III, father Akenhaten and son Tutankhamen actually have originated in Western Europe?

Well, one can spin a plausible tale that the royal family descended from intruding hordes from the Atlantic Fringe. And we know that there were intruders like the chariot-riding Hyksos who appropriated the Nile Delta around 1700BC and then went on to conquer most of Egypt until they were eventually ‘driven out’ 150 years later.

We also know that politics being politics, the conquerors of a settled state often engage in dynastic marriages. It is perfectly possible then that the rulers of the 18th Dynasty preserved the YDNA of some of the former enemies of the Egyptian population at large – much like the later Ptolemies would have preserved the Greek YDNA of their forefathers.

So could the Hyksos have been proto-Celtic / proto-Teutonic? Surely we have to say ‘Yes, maybe’.

As the maps show, there are plenty of examples from the Dark Ages Volkswanderung of ‘long journeys’, as well as the more isolated example of the Cimbri who marauded south from the Jutland Peninsula and severely threatened Roman hegemony in the period 105-101BC.

As I’ve said, the main requirement was a strong political organization grounded on terror.

Strabo describes the system nicely in his remarks about the Cimbri (shame though that as a ‘Gradualist’ Geographer, he gave little credence to rumors of catastrophes like tsunamis):

‘Their wives, who would accompany them on their expeditions, were attended by priestesses who were seers; these were grey-haired, clad in white, with flaxen cloaks fastened on with clasps, girt with girdles of bronze, and bare-footed; now sword in hand these priestesses would meet with the prisoners of war throughout the camp, and having first crowned them with wreaths would lead them to a brazen vessel of about twenty amphorae.

And they had a raised platform which the priestess would mount, and then, bending over the kettle, would cut the throat of each prisoner after he had been lifted up; and from the blood that poured forth into the vessel some of the priestesses would draw a prophecy, while still others would split open the body and from an inspection of the entrails would utter a prophecy of victory for their own people; and during the battles they would beat on the hides that were stretched over the wicker-bodies of the wagons and in this way produce an unearthly noise.

As for the Cimbri, some things that are told about them are incorrect and others are extremely improbable. For instance, one could not accept such a reason for their having become a wandering and piratical folk as this that while they were dwelling on a Peninsula they were driven out of their habitations by a great flood-tide; for in fact they still hold the country which they held in earlier times; and they sent as a present to Augustus the most sacred kettle in their country, with a plea for his friendship and for an amnesty of their earlier offence.

And when their petition was granted they set sail for home; and it is ridiculous to suppose that they departed from their homes because they were incensed on account of a phenomenon that is natural and eternal, occurring twice every day. And the assertion that an excessive flood-tide once occurred looks like a fabrication, for when the ocean is affected in this way it is subject to increases and diminutions, but these are regulated and periodical.’

Well, it’s no skin of my gums whether or not I and many of my fellow Western Europeans are related more or less directly to a sickly inbred Egyptian boy king from 3,300 years ago – but it is an interesting conjecture!

But (and this will really get some people going) the theory could also be cited to explain the origins of the 10% of Ashkenazi Jews who test R1b - whose 'feet in ancient times walked upon Western Europe's green and pleasant land' - as there have long been conjectural links between the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt and the Exodus led by (Tut)Moses.

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