Biblical Archaeology Review 16:5, September/October 1990

Inside BAR

Biblical Archaeology Review

Egyptology, after more than a century of excavation and study by hundreds of scholars, might seem to hold little prospect for startling discoveries. But such discoveries can indeed still be made, as Frank J. Yurco shows in “3,200-Year-Old Picture of Israelites Found in Egypt.” Through his close examination of a wall of reliefs at Karnak, the famous Egyptian temple, Yurco deciphered traces of hieroglyphics that identify Merenptah as the pharaoh responsible for the reliefs, formerly attributed to Ramesses II. This was an important discovery in itself, but Yurco topped it with a remarkable insight: The battle scenes in four of the reliefs apparently illustrate the battles named on the famous Merenptah Stele as part of Merenptah’s Canaanite campaign. One of the battles in that campaign was fought against “Israel” (referring to the people); the corresponding relief gives us a glimpse of the Israelites sometime between 1211 and 1209 B.C.E., about the time of their emergence as a distinct people. And that glimpse contains a clue that hints at a solution to the mystery of the Israelites’ origin.

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