© The Trustees of the British Museum

“The bedouin tribes of Edom” are recorded in the notes of an Egyptian frontier official from the time of Pharaoh Merneptah (c. 1224–1214 B.C.E.). Though this earliest mention of Edom in the Papyrus Anastasi might suggest that the Edomites were only a nomadic people at that time, Biblical references and recent archaeological evidence indicate that the Edomites developed into a relatively sophisticated culture in the early Iron Age, beginning in the 12th century B.C.E.

The fact that the ancient Egyptians took the trouble of even mentioning these nomads means they were no doubt a formidable people.