©The Trustees of the British Museum

The harsh realities of ancient Bedouin life are strikingly recorded in this report of an Egyptian frontier official during the late 19th Dynasty (1292–1190 B.C.E.). In Papyrus Anastasi VI, which was written in cursive hieratic script, the official states that he has allowed shasu pastoralists, together with their families and herds, to pass into Egypt to drink from the pools of Succoth near the borders of the Sinai. He permits the nomads to enter “in order to keep them alive and in order to keep their cattle alive.” During times of drought and scarcity, the settled fertile plains of the Egyptian delta have traditionally served as a refuge for desert pastoralists.