Sea Peoples: Symptom or Cause of the Bronze Age Collapse?

Are the Sea Peoples a cause or a symptom of the Bronze Age Collapse?


  • Total voters
    9

EmperorTigerstar

Ad Honorem
Jun 2013
6,398
USA
Extra Credits on YouTube had a good series about the Sea Peoples: a group of people whose identity is mostly mysterious that happened to invade a lot of places causing a lot of cities to collapse. Around the same time the famous and also mysterious Bronze Age Collapse occurred. The narrator of the series at one point brought up an interesting question on whether the Sea Peoples are more likely the CAUSE of the collapse, AKA the first domino, or a SYMPTOM of it, AKA a domino later on in the chain. Which do you think is the more likely answer? Did a series of famines, economic changes, and natural disasters rile up a bunch of people to invade causing more harm? Or did a bunch of people cause harm which killed off scribes, farmers, and nobles causing a societal collapse?
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,148
Australia
There was no Bronze Age collapse. It is an outdated theory used to reconcile the dodgy chronology.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,517
Portugal
There was no Bronze Age collapse. It is an outdated theory used to reconcile the dodgy chronology.
Dan, I already question this, but there was a strong sequence of posts and maybe you missed it:

I read (well partially…) James Fulrong’s thesis “Aspects of ancient Near Eastern chronology (c. 1600-700 BC)”, the thesis has some 10 years. Paradigms chance slowly, is this line already the dominant one, or is Fulrong somewhat alone?
 
Aug 2013
956
Italy
Extra Credits on YouTube had a good series about the Sea Peoples: a group of people whose identity is mostly mysterious that happened to invade a lot of places causing a lot of cities to collapse. Around the same time the famous and also mysterious Bronze Age Collapse occurred. The narrator of the series at one point brought up an interesting question on whether the Sea Peoples are more likely the CAUSE of the collapse, AKA the first domino, or a SYMPTOM of it, AKA a domino later on in the chain. Which do you think is the more likely answer? Did a series of famines, economic changes, and natural disasters rile up a bunch of people to invade causing more harm? Or did a bunch of people cause harm which killed off scribes, farmers, and nobles causing a societal collapse?
I think that the Sea Peoples must have been on the scene both before and after the Bronze Age collapse. Homer mentions piratical activity along the coastal areas of Greece, and most likely this type of raids or incursions were among the Sea People's earliest activities. The situation would have accelerated and worsened following the fall of kingdoms and palatial systems in Greece and Asia Minor, around the beginning of the 12th century B.C. With the disruption of urban life and the displacement of large population segments in the Aegean area, many individuals and groups would have emigrated, joining bands of multi-ethnic buccaneers and adventurers in search of fortune and profit. The decadence of post-Mycenaean culture was surely provoked in part by constant sacking and looting of former Mycenaean centres, as well as by piratical ravaging of coastal and rural zones.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,148
Australia
Dan, I already question this, but there was a strong sequence of posts and maybe you missed it:

I read (well partially…) James Fulrong’s thesis “Aspects of ancient Near Eastern chronology (c. 1600-700 BC)”, the thesis has some 10 years. Paradigms chance slowly, is this line already the dominant one, or is Fulrong somewhat alone?
No Furlong isn't alone. Every year there are new publications promoting a removal of the Dark Age.

The Proceedings of the third colloquium of the BICANE group (“Bronze to Iron Age Chronology in the Near East”), held at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University in 2011 has recently been published which gives a few examples.

Dodson's book is worth reading too:
Aidan Dodson, Afterglow of Empire: Egypt from the Fall of the New Kingdom to the Saite Renaissance (Cairo/New York: The American University in Cairo Press) 2012.

In his Preface he wrote: "it seems clear to me that the current view of strict orthodoxy concerning the absolute dating (i.e. in terms of years BC) of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period is no longer viable, and that some degree of adjustment of dates – downward – is both necessary and desirable."
 
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Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,517
Portugal
No Furlong isn't alone. Every year there are new publications promoting a removal of the Dark Age.

The Proceedings of the third colloquium of the BICANE group (“Bronze to Iron Age Chronology in the Near East”), held at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University in 2011 has recently been published which gives a few examples.

Dodson's book is worth reading too:
Aidan Dodson, Afterglow of Empire: Egypt from the Fall of the New Kingdom to the Saite Renaissance (Cairo/New York: The American University in Cairo Press) 2012.

In his Preface he wrote: "it seems clear to me that the current view of strict orthodoxy concerning the absolute dating (i.e. in terms of years BC) of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period is no longer viable, and that some degree of adjustment of dates – downward – is both necessary and desirable."
Ok! Thanks for the tips.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
For starters, we need to stop spelling "Sea Peoples" with capital S and capital P. And stop making them out to be some immense juggernaut spanning three continents. That's purely a 19th century invention.

Much as I generally agree with Dan, I do think it's pretty clear that there was conflict and some amount of upheaval at the end of the Bronze Age. The very fact that the Mycenaean palace-based society gave way to something else has to be evidence of some kind of basic change, at the very least. BUT----

Trying to connect desctruction at Greek sites to Egyptian inscriptions that could very well be discussing only *local* events is just way too much of a stretch. Consistently misinterpreting one line to conclude the Hittite empire was swept away simultaneously is also not helping.

Sure, there were pirates and raiders all over the place, and probably some migrations or other movements. Nothing new, there, and it certainly didn't end in the Iron Age. But I think it's really counterproductive to an objective study of the whole era to pack Egyptian coastal raiders, Phillistines, Mycenaean coast watchers, the Trojan War, and banditry in Hatti into one huge cataclysmic package.

And yeah, the chronology problem is very definitely making the whole picture harder to understand! In fact I don't see much point in trying to work out all the events until we fix the timeline.

So my vote, if you want to consider sea people as a symptom of the troubles of the time, sure, why not? They were clearly a concern to some powerful folks. But they didn't cause a "collapse" even in Egypt, which is the only place that talks about them. To me, the whole wording of the question is wrong.

Matthew
 
Feb 2011
833
Kitchener. Ont.
The idea of some kind of catastrophe has always been appealing throughout the centuries in literature, it sells.
The late 19th century historians who promoted this sea peoples phenomenon sold the idea on the fall of empires, widespread devastation, and a new beginning. None of which was supported by archaeology.

It is now known that the fall of the Hittite Empire was not caused by any sea peoples, and no sea peoples ever reached Carchemish on the Euphrates.
The articles, pots, and social wares which are being unearthed at many of those so-called sea peoples sites in the coastal Levant are not traceable directly to the West Aegean. Not only were they made locally, but show very clear derivatives from more local styles and forms.

The whole idea of a widespread invasion from the west Aegean at the end of the Late Bronze Age, is a fiction, so, also is the idea that they caused a collapse of society.
Sadly, there are still some die-hard academics who refuse to let go of, even a small semblance, of this old belief.
Happily, a new generation of archaeologists are making an impact on those old beliefs. Though as yet there is no clear synthesis available of the period it is apparent that not just chapters, but complete books will need to be re-written on this subject.