Hershel Shanks

A POWERFUL MINORITY. This colorful but worn painting from the Beni Hassan tomb of an Egyptian official of the XIIth Dynasty shows a family of “Asiatic” nomads entering Egypt with their animals and belongings. During the Middle Kingdom, similar groups of Semitic Asiatics from Syria and Canaan poured across Egypt’s borders to settle in the well-watered and fertile regions of the eastern Nile Delta, the Biblical land of Goshen. By the end of the period, Asiatics were involved in nearly every aspect of Egyptian society and, for a time, even managed to gain political control over much of Egypt.