J. Liepe

AN EARLY ISRAELITE PORTRAIT? Author Anson Rainey believes a social group known as the shasu provides a more accurate depiction of early Israel than habiru. The shasu appear repeatedly in Egyptian texts of the Late Bronze Age and often show up in Egyptian art as bound prisoners with bag-shaped headdresses, as in this colorful faience tile found at the temple of Medinet Habu, near Luxor. The shasu moved widely throughout the Levant—sometimes working as mercenaries or laborers for Canaanite kings—but they are most often identified as nomadic pastoralists originating from the steppe east of the Jordan. The nomadic character and eastern origins of the shasu are strikingly similar to the Biblical description of early Israel’s wanderings.