Biblical Archaeology Review 29:5, September/October 2003

Israelites Found in Egypt

Four-Room House Identified in Medinet Habu

By Manfred Bietak

The history behind the biblical tradition of Israel in Egypt has always excited scholars and laymen alike. The subject may seem somewhat worn out, however, especially in view of the current “minimalist” tendencies in scholarship. I do not claim to be a Bible scholar myself—I am an Egyptologist. But sometimes an outsider can shed new light on an important subject. I hope that will be the case here.

Reed huts more than 3,000 years old belonging to workers—perhaps slaves—and with the same floor plan as ancient Israelite four-room houses have been identified at Medinet Habu, opposite Luxor in Egypt.1 These reed huts may represent extra-Biblical evidence of Israel in Egypt.

If true, Israelite—or proto-Israelite—workers were in Egypt in the second half of the 12th century B.C.E., more than a half century later than has previously been thought. This evidence, in turn, would have important implications for the historicity of the Biblical narrative.

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