Photo, Frank Yurco; drawing, F. Schonbach

These are the Israelites on the Karnak reliefs, counters Anson Rainey of Tel Aviv University. The reason that the people in the scene identified by Yurco as depicting Israel’s destruction look like Canaanites is that they are Canaanites, says Rainey. Rainey believes that scene illustrates the first line of the Merneptah Stele’s recap of the Canaanite campaign—“Canaan has been plundered into every sort of woe”—not the last line—“Israel is laid waste, his seed is not.”

In Rainey’s analysis, the Israelites might be identified with the knee-length skirted figures shown in this photo and drawing, the pastoralist people known as the Shasu, found elsewhere on the Karnak reliefs. Thus the Israelites would not have emerged from within Canaanite society at all but may well have crystallized from wandering shepherds from outside Canaan.