Brooklyn Museum/Egyptian Department

The famine stela. The second-century B.C.E. inscription on this stela from Sehel Island, at the Nile’s First Cataract, tells how the Third Dynasty king Djoser presented the ram-god Khnum with 12 tracts of land on either side of Elephantine so that he would allow the water through and relieve a seven-year famine.

Discovered by Charles Wilbour, the text echoes the Joseph narrative, in which Egypt and Canaan suffer severe seven-year famines. In Genesis, Joseph interprets the pharaoh’s dreams of seven healthy cows followed by seven ugly gaunt cows emerging from the Nile as signs of suffering to come: “Immediately ahead are seven years of great abundance in all the land of Egypt. After them will come seven years of famine, and all the abundance in the land of Egypt will be forgotten” (Genesis 41:29–30).