Map of ancient Lower Egypt showing Avaris
|Location||Sharqia Governorate, Egypt|
Avaris (; Egyptianw.t w?r.t, sometimes transcribed Hut-waret in works for a popular audience, Greek: , Auaris) was the capital of Egypt under the Hyksos. It was located at modern Tell el-Dab'a in the northeastern region of the Nile Delta, at the juncture of the 8th, 14th, 19th and 20th Nomes. As the main course of the Nile migrated eastward, its position at the hub of Egypt's delta emporia made it a major administrative capital of the Hyksos and other traders. It was occupied from about 1783 to 1550 BC, or from the Thirteenth Dynasty of Egypt through the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt until its destruction by Ahmose I, the first Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty. The name in the Egyptian language of the 2nd millennium BC was probably pronounced *?a?at-W?rat 'Great House' and denotes the capital of an administrative division of the land. Today, the name Hawara survives, referring to the site at the entrance to Faiyum. Alternatively, Clement of Alexandria referred to the name of this city as "Athyria".
In 1885, the Swiss Édouard Naville started the first excavations in the area around Tell-el-Daba. Between 1941 and 1942, Labib Habachi, an Egyptian Egyptologist first forwarded the idea that the site could be identified with Avaris. Between 1966 and 1969 and since 1975, the site has been excavated by the Austrian Archaeological Institute. Using radar imaging technology, its scientists could identify in 2010 the outline of the city including streets, houses, a port, and a side arm of the River Nile passing through the city.
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. 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 some 18 years later (c. 1550 BC) by Ahmose I, the founder of the Eighteenth Dynasty. The Eighteenth Dynasty-based themselves in Thebes and Avaris was largely abandoned, its former citadel becoming the site first of enormous storage facilities, including numerous silos and then a military camp, until finally a new palatial compound of the 18th Dynasty was constructed on top of the camps and soldier graves. Avaris was absorbed into the new city of Pi-Ramesses constructed by Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC) of the Nineteenth Dynasty when he moved the capital back to the Delta.
Amenemhet I (12th) planned a settlement, called Hutwaret located in the 19th Nome, circa 1930 BC. It was a small Egyptian town until about 1830 BC when it began to grow by immigration of Caananites (Levant Middle Brozne Age IIA) By 1800 BC it was a much larger trade colony under Egyptian control. Over the next 100 years immigration increased the size of the city.
Around 1700 BC a temple district to Canaanite Asherah and Egyptian Hathor was built in the eastern part of the city. From 1700 onward social stratification begins and an elite arise.
In 1650 the Hyksos arrive and the city grows to 250 ha. It is believed that Avaris was the largest city in the world from 1670 to 1557 BC. A large citadel was built around 1550.
Avaris, along with Tel Kabri in Israel and Alalakh in Syria, also has a record of Minoan civilization, which is otherwise quite rare in the Levant. Manfred Bietak, an Austrian archaeologist and the excavator of Tell Dab'a, has speculated that there was close contact with the rulers of Avaris, and that the large building featuring 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.