Who were the "Sea People"

Dec 2011
1,725
#11
Medinet Habu inscriptions. Which are probably describing an entirely local event. Sure, there was warfare all over the place...
And the Tanis stele, i.e. the Shardana group

Define "local" ? All Mediterranean bordering areas including the Levant and parts of Asia ? Cline's overview is larger than this.

The Medinet Habu inscriptions were "concise" (Cline[1] p2) statements about a confederation of foreign countries, that were islands, that were intent on invasion.

We cannot rule this out. We cannot prove a negative. Cline's approach, I think, is to show that there were patterns of decline or disruption that were on a more global perspective, reaching beyond the areas usually associated with the sea peoples.

So, even if we included some type of coordinated invasion, that would not, in itself, describe the evidence that we have, or more accurately, the lack thereof, in regard to the sea peoples and their supposed impact on the kingdoms of this period.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2015
2,682
MD, USA
#12
So there were zero "sea peoples" ? That is not what Cline indicates. He does say that their influence was probably greatly exaggerated. Otherwise, we cannot know for sure. Of course, a lot depends on how we define "sea peoples" and cline goes into this as well.
No, not "zero"! Exaggerated, very much. What I mean is that it was 19th century scholars who started spelling "Sea Peoples" with capital letters and started trying to tie them into every mention or suggestion of discord from the last century of the Bronze Age, to concoct some sort of global catastrophe. In the Egyptian inscriptions, it just referred to "those folks by the sea", very possibly meaning the inhabitants of the Nile Delta. Yes, it could also be interpreted as sea-going raiders, but that was nothing new or global, either.

Pointed out long ago ? Clines book was published in 2014 ? Is that what you mean about long ago ?
I read a good summary from 2005, so probably well before that:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups...sations/messages/2105?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma

So much depends on the interpretation of the various names given to the "invaders" (whom I believe are actually referred to as "rebels", meaning already under Egyptian rule), and people have been shoe-horning those ancient names into modern labels for a long time, too.

I thought the conversation was accounting for the collapse of multiple kingdoms over the course of a few decades ?

Okay, iron production, what does that have to do with the disappearance of the Hittite Empire ? Bad weather ? There was a gully washer and the Hittite Empire folded ?
That's where we hit the chronology problem. I'm one of those frothing radicals who understands that the whole "Dark Ages" from 1200 to 900 didn't really exist--all the earlier dates need to be lowered to eliminate that. That way you won't see the Hittite empire "ending" in 1200, and the "neo-Hittite" empire suddenly springing up in exactly the same place 300 years later. Ditto every other culture west of India, including Greece. (Egypt only gets spared because historians go to painful efforts to spread the known history out to cover the gap, starting by making Dynasties sequential that were clearly contemporaneous.) That artificial "gap" is the whole reason for concluding that so much of Europe and Asia were "depopulated" or the inhabitants "went nomadic", etc. Or that kingdoms "collapsed". Really, they are perfectly continuous with what came after.

Though I *do* agree that there was turmoil! There is enough original literature that refers to various troubles, plus we have the burnings of some Mycenaean citadels and their replacement by temples. There's just no need to try to make this all one event, or even happening all at the same time.

Also, apparently, Cline was disgruntled with the "1177" title but that was a publishers decision based on a new fangled dating scheme in play. Cline refers to "just after 1200BC" in his prologue.
I'd call that the "old scheme"! Once the chronology gets fixed that will be 900. Oh, that will fix SOOOO many problems...

Cline is introducing multiple evidentiary layers to inform us of the latest scientific developments. e.g. latest work on dating "destructive layers" and studies on the scope of the drought (which was apparently more than just bad weather)
Okay. Hey, the more that we learn, the better! Though I'm still seeing evidence being manipulated to fit or justify the old chronological framework, without any question of its fundamental problems. It's just how scholars are educated
and trained, but it's still frustrating to see the opposition to the obvious.

Matthew
 
Feb 2011
737
Kitchener. Ont.
#13
Thank you!! It was pointed out long ago that the whole concept of "SEA PEOPLES" is a 19th century invention, blown completely out of proportion from the Medinet Habu inscriptions. Which are probably describing an entirely local event. Sure, there was warfare all over the place, and piracy, and people on the move, and bad weather, all of which happened all the time (and still do). The Bronze Age ended because iron production increased, which is really not a sign of "collapse" but of prosperity.

Add to this the whole messed-up chronology and too many experts simply repeating the same tired tropes and chesnuts, and it's almost pointless to try any serious research on the era. But we can start by saying "sea people", as the Egyptians did, and not capitalizing it and making it out to be some global plague of human locusts sweeping across thousands of miles eradicating every civilization in their path. Which clearly didn't happen.

And it wasn't in "1177", either, but that's another whole argument!

Matthew
"Sea Peoples" is a 19th century term not used by Egyptians. They did not use a collective term for these invaders, just that some of them came by sea - "n-p3-iamu" = Of the sea", though I think 'At the sea' is more accurate.
It was a local enterprise, in my opinion. The pottery evidence suggests this. Sure the decoration in from the Aegean, but the form & style is found in Anatolia, Cyprus & Syria.
No monochrome/bichrome pottery has ever been found in the west Aegean, it is purely a local development for the east Mediterranean.
 
Mar 2018
266
UK
#15
Let's keep things in perspective:






1280px-Volume_of_world_merchandise_exports.png

Volume of international trade beat the pre-crisis level a mere two years after the pre-crisis peak, and it's been accelerating ever since. Let's take a break from the doomsday news-cycle for a second ok? Or should I also show all the evidence showing population growth is slowing down and will level out in a decade or two?

Admittedly, the climate change stuff could be anywhere from slightly bad to really quite bad. But 1/3 is not the same as a triple hit
 
Feb 2011
737
Kitchener. Ont.
#16
......

The Medinet Habu inscriptions were "concise" (Cline[1] p2) statements about a confederation of foreign countries, that were islands, that were intent on invasion.
This is where a great deal of conjecture has sent historians down the wrong path, Cline included.
The term "foreign countries" is often applied to foreign inhabitants of the Delta.
If you recall, Libyans occupied the western Delta, Asiatics in the eastern Delta. These foreigners lived on the Gezirah's, in flood season they were islands, often referred to as "islands in the midst".

The Piankhy Stela gives us some insight into the frequent troubles Egypt had with those rebellious Northerners. Egypt had been plagued by these Northerners since before the Middle Kingdom, if I recall correctly. These are the "foreign countries" commonly referred to in royal titularies. They are also mentioned among the Nine Bows.
The "foreign countries", who live on "islands", who come against Egypt are the same peoples elsewhere known as the "Northerners". Historians have typically taken this term (Mehti/Northerner) as referring to the Aegean islands, this could not be further from the truth. Mehti was an Egyptian term used to describe people who occupy the northern limits of the Delta.
Piankhy moved against the Northerners led by TafNekht, and we know from the record that Piankhy swept across the Delta, not the Aegean.
 
Feb 2011
737
Kitchener. Ont.
#17
...

I read a good summary from 2005, so probably well before that:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups...sations/messages/2105?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma

So much depends on the interpretation of the various names given to the "invaders" (whom I believe are actually referred to as "rebels", meaning already under Egyptian rule), and people have been shoe-horning those ancient names into modern labels for a long time, too.
Much appreciated, I had totally forgotten about that. It is being updated at the moment, in fact I'm trying to find the time to get a web page/site put together to broaden the synthesis.


That's where we hit the chronology problem. I'm one of those frothing radicals who understands that the whole "Dark Ages" from 1200 to 900 didn't really exist--all the earlier dates need to be lowered to eliminate that.
I don't dabble in chronology, I tend to feel chronology needs a team approach. Too many disciplines for one researcher to tackle by themselves.
 
#18
Two things.

1] "I think that is Clines point. He writes that "...most of the sites in Anatolia were simply either completely or mostly abandoned at this time, rather than put to the torch by the Sea Peoples." see [1] in previous post. p156. "

IMHO that is just wrong and can no longer be stated so carelessly, unless one is able to prove that James et.al. 1991 is wrong. Their counter argument is simply that the chronology is wrong, and I concur :)
All we have is sites (all over S-Europe, Anatolia & the Middle-East) where we have layers dated to X, then nothing or 'difficult to date', then layers dated to X+Y, where Y is between 150 and 250 years.
And sites where the layers before and after the 'dark age' are mixed (i.e. we have dated to X and the next to Z, and then to Y once again, but Z has items dated to either X or Y, yet those are about 200 years or more apart ...).
And sites where there is no intermediate layer, not even natural sediment... And sites where the city is dated to a different period than the nearby graveyard (I kid you not) etc etc etc, ad nauseam.
But that is another discussion all together.


2] Sure there were 'sea peoples'.
Ramesses II, Merneptah and Ramesses III identified a number who were seaborne raiders (Ekwesh, Shardana, Sikkilu, Lukku etc) and others who were local landlocked groups (Peleset & Libbu).

Sea people - identification certain or fairly certain
d3jnjw: Denyen. Sea peoples ('in their isles'). Most likely Danaoi Greeks. The indication would seem to rule out nearby seaborne raiders from Syria or Anatolia.
jḳ3w3š3: Ekwesh ("of the countries of the sea"): probably Achean Greeks
rkw: Lukka: Lycians, SW Anatolia. From a remote coastline and known seaborne raiders. Great pirates until Pompey enslaved or killed them all and destroyed all their villages along the coast.
š3rdn: Sherden ("of the sea", "of the countries of the sea"): Shardana = Sardinians.

Sea people - identification uncertain
š3krš3: Shekelesh ("of the countries of the sea"): Sea people. perhaps Sicilians
twrš3: Teresh ("of the sea"): Sea people. Tyrrhenians? Or Etruscans? Identification rather doubtful IMHO.
w3š3š3: Weshesh ("of the sea"): Sea people. Location unknown.

Uncertain whether sea people
ṯ3k3r: Tjeker, Tjeuker: Unknown origin. These may not really be 'sea' people, just raiders. They could come from closer to Egypt. They are mentioned in story of Wenamun and seem Canaanites, perhaps seamen and if so perhaps more local seaborne raiders.

Not sea people - identification certain
prst/plst or prwst: Peleset, Palestinians. Not a sea people but people from nearby Palestine (including city dwellers).
Libbu: Libyan tribes from next door.

Note that the earlier inscriptions mention Ekwesh and only the later ones mention Denyen, which makes it more likely that the latter are indeed the Danaoi. Still Greeks, new name. So these two are almost certainly Greeks.
The Peleset and Libbu are Egyptian neighbors. And neither of those two arrived at that time. The Palestinians are clearly depicted as more civilized city dwellers from Canaan and their costumes are exactly similar to what was worn by people who already lived there in the time of the early dynasty 18 of Egypt, probably before that, based upon modern excavations. The Libbu are the Libyan tribes, more nomadic in nature and fierce warriors. They were later hired by the Egyptians and took over the country by dynasty 21.
The Lukka are almost certainly the same (Luwian) group that lived in SW Anatolia and was later known as the Lycian pirates. Their script was Linear C, developped from Linear B/A. So they had contacts with at least one of: Cyprus, Krete and the Greek mainland.
The Shardana are also positively identified as Sardinians. Very well known, several became part of the army of Ramesses II (some have even been part of the bodyguard of Ramesses II) and their culture on Sardinia is fairly well documented. The Shardana warrior statues (from Sardinia) from those excavations are very similar to their depictions on the walls of Medinet Habu.
If the Shekelesh were depicted with similar costumes as the Shardana, then maybe they are indeed Sicilians, I would have to check.

I would expect Cypriots among these groups, but IDK which one is them.
Cretans need not have gotten their own name, as they were already part of Mycenean Greek sphere after mid-reign Thutmose III. So at least to the Egyptians they would most likely be called Ekwesh.


IMHO the situation was a bit similar to the time after the 10000 of Xenophon: the barbarians found out that the empires where not that great, so they tried their luck in raiding those area's as well.
And again and again. At least until some of them fought back and they would switch to easier targets.

It can be that the (two) attacks on Troy were the inspiration for the Greek groups (one attack was probably early/mid Ramesses II, another could have been earlier or later).
Aleksandu of Wilusa (Illios) had a treaty with Muwatalli II of Hatti, so if that is the same Aleksandu as the Alexander of Troy (Taruiša) who was attacked during the famous sack by Agamemnon then the other attack must have been before Ramesses II. Otherwise this can have been an earlier Aleksandu and it was his like-named grandson(?) who was attacked by Agamemnon instead. Then the attack from early to mid Ramesses II was not the famous one, but the next one a few generations later (end of D19 or early D20). Anyways they will have fought against the Hittite army as well, as they were allied to Illios and several other West Anatolian states were allies or vassal stated of the Hittite empire.
For the Shardana the situation was simpler: they raided early on already and were perhaps reasonably successful, until Ramesses II defeated them (in his year 2). Then he incorporated them in his army and they fought at Kadesh (in his year 5) against the Hittite army. So again they knew what they were up against.

These groups did not bring down the empires, they were just a sign of the times. New types of warfare, and using the opportunity of internal strife or wars between the empires to pick on the weak.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
3,309
Australia
#19
These groups did not bring down the empires, they were just a sign of the times. New types of warfare, and using the opportunity of internal strife or wars between the empires to pick on the weak.
There was a new style of warfare that abandoned chariot archery in favour of javelin skirmishers and massed infantry but it wasn't introduced by those attackers. Egypt had already adopted this type of fighting before those battles. Both sides fought the same way.
 

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