Staatliche Museen, Berlin

A major archive of more than 350 tablets in Akkadian cuneiform, like the one shown here, the Amarna letters now appear in a single volume with a new, authoritative translation. Found at Tell el-Amarna, site of the capital of Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV, 1350–1334 B.C.), the tablets include many letters between Akhenaten (and his predecessor Amenhotep III) and Egypt’s vassal kings in Canaan. Some of the letters complain of depredations by outlaws called ‘apiru. The example shown here reports that ‘apiru led by Lab’ayyu (his name is boxed in the photo) had seized the city of Shechem. Some scholars believe that the ‘apiru may have been one element of the emerging Israelites (they linguistically relate ‘apiru to ‘Ibrim, the Akkadian word for “Hebrews”), but author William L. Moran and reviewer Anson F. Rainey argue that “there is no linguistic, sociological or historical connection” between the ‘apiru and ‘Ibrim.