June 09, 2011

Sea Peoples invade: 1192–1190 BC

Modern methods are slowly helping us build a history of the Heroic Age. The exploits of the Sea Peoples are perhaps not as distinctly preserved in the Greek tradition as those of the Achaeans who sacked Troy, probably sometime during the 1180s BC, with the nostos of Odysseus recently dated to 1,178BC.

The lack of distinct information may be, in part, due to the fact that the Sea Peoples were active mostly away from the Aegean, and in lands where Greek colonization did not occur centuries later, and hence were cut off from the Aegean world. The memory of the Sea Peoples was best preserved by the native peoples who experienced their presence (such as the Old Testament Hebrews in the case of the Philistines).

From the paper:
By contrasting historical-archaeological and radiocarbon-based data sets, the best candidate for the destruction date of the harbour town is the Sea People invasion. Their presence immediately after the destruction of Gibala is indicated by the material culture of the new settlements on the Tell namely the appearance of Aegean-type architecture, locally-made Mycenaean IIIC Early pottery, hand-made burnished pottery, and Aegean-type loam-weights. These materials, also known from Philistine settlements [24], are cultural markers of foreign settlers, most probably the Sea Peoples.
The half millennium between the eruption of Thera in 1,613BC (probably the cause of the Flood tradition of Greek mythology) and the return of the Heraclids to the Peloponnese in 1,104BC (according to Eratosthenes) must have been a remarkable period of change. It truly deserved the special place accorded to it by Hesiod, interjected between the Bronze and Iron Ages. Hopefully, we will have more ancient DNA from this period, from sites around the Eastern Mediterranean, to help better piece together the tumultuous events that so inspired later generations.

PLoS ONE 6(6): e20232. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020232

The Sea Peoples, from Cuneiform Tablets to Carbon Dating

David Kaniewski et al.

The 13th century BC witnessed the zenith of the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean civilizations which declined at the end of the Bronze Age, ~3200 years ago. Weakening of this ancient flourishing Mediterranean world shifted the political and economic centres of gravity away from the Levant towards Classical Greece and Rome, and led, in the long term, to the emergence of the modern western civilizations. Textual evidence from cuneiform tablets and Egyptian reliefs from the New Kingdom relate that seafaring tribes, the Sea Peoples, were the final catalyst that put the fall of cities and states in motion. However, the lack of a stratified radiocarbon-based archaeology for the Sea People event has led to a floating historical chronology derived from a variety of sources spanning dispersed areas. Here, we report a stratified radiocarbon-based archaeology with anchor points in ancient epigraphic-literary sources, Hittite-Levantine-Egyptian kings and astronomical observations to precisely date the Sea People event. By confronting historical and science-based archaeology, we establish an absolute age range of 1192–1190 BC for terminal destructions and cultural collapse in the northern Levant. This radiocarbon-based archaeology has far-reaching implications for the wider Mediterranean, where an elaborate network of international relations and commercial activities are intertwined with the history of civilizations.

Link

14 comments:

terryt said...

"However, the lack of a stratified radiocarbon-based archaeology for the Sea People event has led to a floating historical chronology derived from a variety of sources spanning dispersed areas".

But hadn't most of us already come to the conclusions offered in this paper? I'll admit some have included Sardinians in the picture but surely it is more likely that the Shardana settled there after. Same with Danaan and Shekelesh, and so on.

lars said...

looks like an older version of the crusades

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The evidence from Gibala and the Philistine's combined effectively proves the case that the Mycenaeans were the Sea People from merely persuasive among several plausible to candidates, to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that pretty much rules out the alternatives.

Until these two recent discoveries, other candidates seemed viable. Now, they do not, at least in the Levant.

pconroy said...

So it looks like some group were attacking the Greek principalities from the North, which in turn forced them to flee to new lands to the South.

Reminds me of the Visigoth invasion of the Balkans at the hands of the Huns.

Who were these Northern invaders/barbarians??

Onur said...

Who were these Northern invaders/barbarians??

Dorian Greeks?

Dienekes said...

So it looks like some group were attacking the Greek principalities from the North, which in turn forced them to flee to new lands to the South.

The authors never mention anything about the "inland invasions" they mark in their figure.

The arrow that crosses from Thrace into Asia Minor could potentially be linked to the Phrygians who crossed into Asia in the first quarter of the 12th century BC.

The arrow going down from Epirus is pretty arbitrary, I think, although it is possible that the Dorian-Makednon tribal group may have experienced pressure from the north during this time which caused it to move southwards from Epirus into Sterea Hellas and finally, at the close of the 12th c. BC.

I don't, however, really see evidence for this "pressure", and I prefer the traditional account that the Heraclids had been exiled from the Peloponnese by the Perseids before the Trojan War, and afterwards led the Dorians to re-capture it, succeeding after several failed attempts.

Dienekes said...

Perseids should be Pelopids in the above.

terryt said...

"The arrow that crosses from Thrace into Asia Minor could potentially be linked to the Phrygians who crossed into Asia in the first quarter of the 12th century BC".

That was my thought on seeing it too.

"The arrow going down from Epirus is pretty arbitrary, I think, although it is possible that the Dorian-Makednon tribal group may have experienced pressure from the north during this time which caused it to move southwards from Epirus into Sterea Hellas and finally, at the close of the 12th c. BC".

Possiblky the Dorians in fact?

Creative said...

I don’t have the full text, but the text below refers to 5 Philistine skulls from Azor which were studied.

People of the sea: the search for the Philistines
Trude Krakauer Dothan, Moshe Dothan
Macmillan, 1992 – Page 113

“Not a single Mediterranean type was found in Azor. The most striking feature of the tiny population was its surprising diversity. Two of the five showed clear characteristics of the brachycephalic, or "short-headed, " Armenoid or Dinaric classes, probably of Balkan or Asia Minor origin. One was a “short-headed” Alpine type of central Europe. One jaw pointed to another short-headed type of indeterminate subgroup. And the last was a skull that contained mixed Mediterranean and and short-headed characteristics.”

DagoRed said...

Very likely that these groups of people called the sea's people mixed with other groups during their travels, similar to what happened during the Celtic expansion.
It is not surprising to find that individuals in the same group were so different.

There is no evidence of an invasion of Greece from the north, even the famous letters of Pilo shows that city dwellers expect attacks from the sea.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

One plausible "fundamental" cause for Bronze Age collapse that has been proposed is one in which climate shift/drought leads to food scarcity which leads to infighting among the various communities within Bronze Age societies (an intercommunity tie acid bath if you will), and that the resulting wars between Greek communities leads some to go into exile and become Sea People.

Onur said...

and that the resulting wars between Greek communities leads some to go into exile and become Sea People.

Much like the Viking invasions.

terryt said...

"Very likely that these groups of people called the sea's people mixed with other groups during their travels"

We know form Egyptian records that they mixed with 'Libyans' at times.

Jim said...

"We know form Egyptian records that they mixed with 'Libyans' at times."

I remember pictures showing Libu with nearly the same feathered headdresses as some group of Sea Peoples. It could have gotten to the point that they became hard to distinguish, even for their next door neighbors in Egypt.