The Art Archive/Dagli Orti

A puberty ritual, circumcision is performed on a youth in this relief from the tomb of Ankh-ma-Hor (2340–2140 B.C.E.) at Saqqara, ancient Egypt’s major necropolis. Circumcision was mandatory for those expecting to take their seasonal turn in the temple priesthood. Since the Israelites also practiced circumcision, Joseph was already “pure” enough in that respect to visit the pharaoh.