Sea peoples

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Description of the victory over the sea peoples in the mortuary temple of Ramses III. in Medinet Habu , the ancient Egyptian Tahut

The term sea ​​peoples has been used since the late 19th century as a collective term for the "foreign peoples" mentioned in Egyptian sources of the New Kingdom , who lived towards the end of the 13th century BC. BC under Merenptah , but especially at the beginning of the 12th century BC. Chr. , According to reports of Ramses III. ( 20th Dynasty , New Kingdom ) became a serious threat to Egypt. Possibly the same forces that existed between 1194 and 1186 BC. BC Ugarit attacked and destroyed. These peoples are also held responsible for a series of further destruction and upheavals in the eastern Mediterranean region ( Levant Sea ).

Hypotheses on origin

How did originally the individual groups of called "Sea Peoples" ethnicities came, is still unclear and hypothetical . In addition to other positions, it is assumed that the "sea peoples" came from different groups of different Mediterranean regions and different cultures, which penetrated the existing political and cultural orders of the individual states of the eastern Mediterranean in waves and over a longer period of time . The causes of this migration dynamic are, although controversial, among others. a. suspected for example in the later consequences of the Thera eruption , a late Bronze Age eruption of the Aegean volcanic island Thera (today Santorini ), which occurred in the 17th or 16th century BC. BC, or in combination with a later eruption of the Hekla volcano on Iceland or the Etna in Sicily and their effects. Such hypotheses then derive effects from the eruptions such as the eclipse of the sun, lowering of the temperature, which was expressed in the climate history at that time in a general drop in temperature, and subsistence crises . Other scenarios see a chain of earthquakes caused by the drift along the contact and fault zones of the African , Eurasian and Arabian plates a possible explanation.

Also droughts , their causes are unclear, come as an explanation of the question, so was able to Kaniewski (2008/2010) on the basis of pollen analysis in Tell Tweini (Syria) to prove that the climate of the early 12th v until the 9th century. Became drier. Another pollen analysis in Cyprus, in Hala Sultan Tekke , came to the same results. Another meta-study by Drake (2012) for the Aegean Sea showed that the sea surface in the eastern Mediterranean was cooling at that time, which in turn resulted in less precipitation and probably between 1250 and 1197 BC. Led to a drought in the region.

It seems unlikely that the raids and looting of the "sea peoples" would have only led to a collapse of the late Bronze Age trade routes , which collapsed the fragile system of closely networked cultures. The Sea Peoples thus seem not only to have been the trigger, but also to have been affected by a far more complex event. That is why the profound upheavals in cultures and societies around the year 1200 BC. One or more central causes for both Europe and the Middle East are close.

Concept and history of science

The name goes back to the expression peuples de la mer in a text by the Egyptologist Emmanuel de Rougé (1811–1872), who used it in his description (1855) of the remains of the second pylon of the temple of Medînet Hâbu . The Egyptologist Gaston Maspero , Emmanuel de Rougé's successor at the Collège de France , popularized the term peuples de la mer and associated it with the theory of their migration. Maspero mentioned this hypothesis in 1873 in the Revue critique d'histoire et de littérature and further developed it in 1895 in his Histoire ancienne des peuples de l'Orient classique .

The term sea ​​peoples was spread by Maspero in the academic world, he found the term peuples de la mer 'related to terms in ancient Egyptian texts, in which the "people of (the islands) in the middle of the sea" (iww ḥr jw-ib w3ḏ-wr ) . Although the name suggests that these are sea warriors, the texts speak of the fact that they fought at sea and on land.

In the Egyptian texts they are called thr or plural thr.w written. Usually this is translated as "warrior" or "troop". Presumably it is a Semitic loan word from Ugarit . There it is used in tablets twice in connection with a victory of the Tarwu (thr) against the city of Emar, whereby this was probably the Mittani . In the relief of the Battle of Kadesch in 1274 BC . AD are thr but also as troops before or after the army of the Hittites depicted in functions as a patrol and rear protection, probably also from Mitanni Naharina represent in services Hittite ruler. Various scientists therefore regard them as quick "reaction forces" or "elite warriors".

The earliest Egyptian source for the word thr comes from the time of Thutmose III. and probably also depends on the Mitanni and the Battle of Megiddo from 1457 BC. Together. Alan Gardiner therefore believed that it was a Mittan word. Another indication is the marriage stele of Ramses II , who married the daughter of the king of Hatti . This was accompanied by her court and the thr . In the 20th dynasty of Egypt thr are mentioned in high military positions, but also as landowners in Middle Egypt . Two private steles from the temple of Ehnasya designate themselves as thr leader of the Shardana stronghold and as thr soldier of the Sherden. A military colony is from the time of Ramses III. known who served in his army. A clear assignment of these sea peoples can therefore not be seen here either.

Ethnic groups and "sea peoples" named from an Egyptian perspective

Archaeological finds in Egypt in the 19th and 20th centuries and other written sources of the time gave rise to the idea of ​​a "sea peoples storm" that occurred in the late Bronze Age , in the 12th and 11th centuries BC. Chr., Near Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean civilizations are said to have threatened and partly destroyed. In current research, the "sea peoples" are more of a construct . The consequences of a climate catastrophe that led to a far-reaching drought are more likely to be responsible for the decline of the advanced Asian cultures in the late Bronze Age. In societies, crop failures led to internal conflicts, to flight and displacement and ultimately to acts of war.

The Egyptian inscriptions name ethnic groups that can be identified and localized by comparing them with Hittite correspondence or biblical tradition ( Lycians , Philistines , Cretans [ Keftiu ], Danuna / Danaer , etc.). Not all peoples called sea peoples are named in the sources known so far under the respective kings of Egypt who reported about them:

Mention of Peleset, Tjeker, Šekeleša, Danu and Wašaš in the inscription on the second pylon of the mortuary temple of Ramses III. in Medinet Habu (middle column)
Surname Amarna time Ramses ii Merenptah Ramses III.
Luka (rkw)
Šardana (š3rdn)
Šekeleša (š3krš3)
Turiša (twrš3)
Aqi-waša (jḳ3w3š3)
Danu (d3jnjw)
Tjeker (ṯ3k3r)
Peleset (prwsṯ)
Wašaš (w3š3š3)

Not listed in the table are the Dardunu (d3rdnjj) , Meša (m3s3) , Mawuna or Yaruna (jrwn) , Pidasa (pt3s3) and Kelekeš, mentioned only under Ramses II as allies of the Hittites in the battle of Kadesh .

Between 1250 and 1100 BC After evaluating pollen analyzes by Dafna Langgut, Israel Finkelstein and Thomas Litt, there was a climate change that led to extremely dry phases in the area of ​​the eastern Mediterranean. In the late Bronze Age , from approx. 1220 BC onwards, Major changes in sea trade in the Mediterranean region. These difficulties already showed with the Hittites around 1210 BC. First effects because Egypt supported the Hittites, who had got into a supply shortage, with grain deliveries. Apparently the economic situation could not be stabilized for long. Only a few years later, the Hittites were already looking for new settlement options. Archaeological finds and written documents show the emerging collapse of the entire trade as far as the Aegean region .

Ancient Orient around 1220 BC There was an intensive economic and political exchange between the power centers and cultures.

The migrations that might have started probably came from the west and dragged on by land over a longer period of time. On the relief in Medinet Habu families are shown who are traveling with their belongings on ox carts. The destination of these hikers was initially Hatti and Kizzuwatna , later the Levant and Cyprus . The attacks at sea must therefore be seen separately from the "migration of peoples" that began earlier.

Theories on the identity of the "sea peoples"

The topic “Sea Peoples” is one of the most discussed, most complex and most difficult research areas in antiquity . Numerous multidisciplinary congresses were devoted exclusively to this topic.

Even Jean-François Champollion began in 1836 in his Egyptian Grammar (Grammaire égyptienne) mentioned in Medinet Habu Peleset with from the Bible known Philistines same. In 1867, Emmanuel de Rougé , supplemented by François Chabas in 1872, suggested for the ethnonyms in the inscriptions of Merenptah in Karnak and Ramses III. In Medinet Habu, due to phonetic similarities, the following identifications of the individual tribes exist:

Egyptian sources Interpretation of Emmanuel de Rougé
Lukka (rkw) Lycians
Sherden (š3rdn) Sardinians
Shekelesh (š3krš3) Sikeler
Touresh (twrš3) Etruscan
Akawasha or Ekouesh (jḳ3w3š3) Achaeans
Denyen (d3jnjw) Danaer
Tjekker (ṯ3k3r) Dear
Polosté or Pholosté (prwsṯ) Philistines
Weshesh (w3š3š3) Oscar

Chabas also connected the Danu (Denyen) with the Daunians in ancient Calabria and made the proposal to identify the Peleset , the later Philistines, originally with the Pelasgians . The equations in the table above were widely recognized at the time of de Rougé, even if Gaston Maspero questioned them in 1873 and pleaded for an origin of the sea peoples exclusively from western Anatolia and mainland Greece ("Anatolian thesis"). Maspero connected the Scherden with the city of Sardis in Lydia , the Shekelesh with Sagalassos in Pisidia and the Weschesch with the Carian name Wassos. The Akjawascha (Ekwesch) also held it as de Rougé and Chabas, for Achaean (Achaioi). After their defeat against Ramses III. if these peoples moved on to other settlement areas on the Mediterranean Sea, the Peleset took up residence on the coast of Canaan.

The English Egyptologist and historian Henry R. Hall adopted Maspero's proposals at the beginning of the 20th century, with the exception of Weschesch , which he equated with the Cretan Waksioi. In addition, in 1922 in a memorial for Champollion, he deviated from Maspero's view of identifying the Danuna with the Danaers in Greece, instead combining them with the Danuna Kilikiens , which were already mentioned in the Amarna letters ( EA 151 ). At the same time Hall summarized the current state of research and gave an overview of the literature published so far. Eduard Meyer also tried to give an overview in his 1928 History of Antiquity . He suggested the following assignments for the Sea Peoples:

Egyptian sources Interpretation of Eduard Meyer
Luka (rkw) Lycians
Šerdana (š3rdn) Sardinians - possible, but not secured
Šakaruša or Šakalša (š3krš3) Sikeler in southern Italy - possible, but not guaranteed
Turša or Turuša (twrš3) Tyrsener - pirates in the Aegean, later Etruscans
Aqaiwaša (jḳ3w3š3) Achaeer - good name match
Danauna (d3jnjw) Danaer of Argos
Zakkari (ṯ3k3r) ?
Pursta, Puirsta or Persta (prwsṯ) Philistines
Uašeš (w3š3š3) ?

Eduard Meyer assumes a certain comprehensibility of two peoples, the Persta and the Zakkari, in addition to the Danaers, Achaeans, Lycians and Tyrsenians. He connects the Persta with the Philistines who, according to Israelite tradition, came from Crete. Both peoples settled at the beginning of the 12th century BC. BC on the coast of Palestine, the Philistines at Gaza and Ascalon , the Zakkari north at Dor . In Egyptian depictions, the Persta and Zakkari had in common the "head covering of feathers" or "feather crown". According to Herodotus ( Historien : 1, 171), the Carians were the first to put plumes on helmets.

The equation of the Šardana with the inhabitants of Sardinia and the Šekeleš or Tjeker with the Sikelern or inhabitants of Sicily is still disputed in research. Together with the Turša (Tyroša), however, the Šardana can refer to older points of contact in Egyptian history, which go back to the beginning of the 18th dynasty. The Luka , as inhabitants of the Lukka countries , were often mentioned in Hittite texts and were settled in Southwest Asia Minor .

Course of the "sea peoples storm"

Peoples operating at sea formed a coalition with peoples operating on land and destroyed many cities and empires in the eastern Mediterranean region. The last correspondence from Ugarit , to Merenptah , speaks of fights of the Hittite ruler, Šuppiluliuma II., In the area of ​​the Lukka lands . At the same time, after the Alašija letters , Cyprus was attacked by unspecified "enemies" who, however, moved on. The Ugarit fleet was used by the Hittite ruler on the south coast of Asia Minor. Troops of Ugarit had been relocated to the Hittite heartland. Immediately after this description, the defenseless Ugarit was destroyed from the sea.

Egyptian sources on the "sea peoples"

Inscription of Merenptah

Vertically mirrored drawing of the victory stele of Merenptah (F. Petrie).

On inscriptions in Karnak and Athribis , the battle in the Libyan War is mentioned from the 5th year of Merenptah (Baenre-hotephirmaat) , in which a coalition of Libyans and "sea peoples" attacked Egypt ( military system in the New Kingdom ). The Libyan ruler Meria ( Mrjj ) was followed by the auxiliary troops of the Šardana (or Scherden ), Šekeleš (Shekelesch), Aqi-waša (Eqweš), Luka, Turiša and the Mešweš (Meschwesch), Tjehenu and Tjemehu, who are considered Libyan .

“The lands of the Hittites fall to their knees, like when they see approaching greyhounds. Remaining fear for the hearts of the Mešweš, the land of Tjemhu is broken. Lebu has been ousted from our Ta Meri ('Beloved Land'); it can now see the rays of Aton again because the storm was chased away over Kemet . "

Representations in Medinet Habu

The attack of the Sea Peoples caused Ramses III. in his 8th year of reign (1180 BC) on the following report:

Warrior of a member of the Sea Peoples (middle, with a brushed helmet; right helmet with horn-like decorations); depicted on Medinet Habu Ramses III. Temple northeast wall
Pulasati ( Philistines ) and Tsakkaras on a pylon by Medinet Habu

“(15) I {Ramses III} protect {Egypt}, (16) by repelling (for it) the nine arcs. The foreign countries all separated from their islands together. It moved away and the countries are scattered in one fell swoop in the battle. Not any country stood up to their arms; (and the countries) from Ḫatti , Qadi , Qarqemiš , Arzawa , (17) and Alasia were (now) uprooted in one fell swoop.
Camp was set up in a place in the interior of Amurru . They destroyed his people and his country as if it had never been. Now, with the flame prepared before them, they advanced towards Egypt, their fortress (?). (18) The plst , ṯkr , šklš , dnjn and wšš , allied countries, laid their hands on all countries until the end of the world; their hearts were confident and trusting: our plans will succeed. "

- Excerpt from the inscription in the mortuary temple of Ramses III. in Medinet Habu
Medinet Habu Ramses III.  Temple northeast wall 55a.jpg
Medinet Habu Ramses III.  Temple northeast wall marking 01.jpg
Naval battle in the Nile Delta between the forces of Ramses III. and the "Sea Peoples". Original and redrawing of a wall relief on the temple of Medinet Habu

On the reliefs in the mortuary temple of Ramses III. these foreign peoples are represented in Medinet Habu. The Peleset (plst) , Tjeker (ṯkr) , Danuna (dnjn) and the Waschasch (wšš) wear helmets with a feather crown. There are parallel parallels in Enkomi for the representations of this . The wearers of a horned helmet without an attachment are the shears. This type of horn helmet was found as a drawing on the warrior vase from Mycenae , and also in Enkomi.

The Šekeleš (šklš) wear headbands. The foreign peoples are represented uniformly with a short skirt and are mostly beardless. They often wear armor. The armament consists of a round shield, spear, lance and sword. Their ships are of a uniform type, with sails and a conspicuous bird's head on either end. Whether they owned oars is disputed. The details of the clothing in all groups can be assigned to the Mediterranean area; likewise, according to scientific research, the ships. Simultaneously with the attacks by the Sea Peoples, there is a collapse of the Bronze Age cultural centers in the eastern Mediterranean.

Harris papyrus

In the Harris I papyrus , an accountability report of Ramses III, which was written shortly after his death, it is reported how the Pharaoh killed the Dnjn ( Danuneans ) "who are on their islands". Shardana prisoners are settled as auxiliary troops. If this refers to the same events as the inscriptions of Medinet Habu, it probably means that the Egyptian victory was not complete, but that the attackers had to be settled on the periphery and appeased with tributes. Many commentators also assume that the Šrdn are confused with the Šklš (Shekelesh), because Šrdn are known from earlier times as Egyptian auxiliaries: Šrdn are already occupied under Ramses II on the Egyptian side in the battle of Kadesh . They apparently came into the army as prisoners of war and are shown wearing horned helmets with pommel. However, this does not rule out that other groups of this people did not follow this path. The Šrdn are commonly identified with the Šardanu in the Amarna letters from the 18th dynasty, so that the ethnicity would be the same. In a letter from the king of Byblos to the king of Egypt, Šardanu are mentioned as a bodyguard.

Ethnic groups in the late Bronze Age in Anatolia , based on Hittite records. According to
Zanger (1994), Aḫḫijawa is north of Arzawa (not labeled on the map) in the vicinity of Troy .
Important regions and cities of Asia Minor in the 13th century BC Especially in the west, strong following. The Hittite vassal state Wiluša is localized by him in the Troas.

Pirates and Mycenaeans

lili rere
Ramses III. leads prisoners of the Sea Peoples before Amun and Courage - all prisoners in the three registers behind the Pharaoh wear a "feather helmet"
(drawing after Richard Lepsius and original relief on the second pylon of the mortuary temple of Ramses III in Medinet Habu )

Others saw the "sea peoples" simply as pirates. The piracy had a different status when they are viewed from today's perspective in those days. The boundaries between adventure, piracy and war were fluid. For example, booty trips were part of the normal occupation of Greek nobles. In Homer's Odyssey , Menelaus describes this to Telemachus : "So I wandered through the countries and amassed great fortune." (Homer: Odyssey 4.90)

Some researchers suspected that the "sea peoples" were largely Mycenaeans , who were not victims, but triggered the unrest. For the time being, this theory is considered to be very problematic, although some parallels to the Mycenaean can be found in the material culture of the later Philistines . So there is a very close proximity of the so-called Philistine ceramics to the Mycenaean ceramics of the level SH III C 1b in the 12th century BC. The phase SH III C continued around 1200 BC. In Cyprus. The representation of some sea peoples in the mortuary temple of Ramses III. refers to the Aegean Sea as the place of origin. The "feather helmets" are often assigned to the Mycenaeans, who attached a helmet bush ( ancient Greek λόφος lophos ) as an attachment to their helmets. In addition, many of the sea peoples wear a Mycenaean apron that ends above the knee , as it is known in Egypt from the tomb of Rechmire among the donors from Keftiu . The birds 'heads at the ends of the sea peoples' ships are also often assigned to the Aegean cultural area. This fits the statement of Odysseus in Homer of "red-billed ships" (Homer: Odyssey 23,271).

Philistine warship
The late Bronze Age ship from Uluburun as a reference model
Reconstruction of a Mycenaean ship

Origin from Asia Minor and the Aegean Sea

In current research, the “Sea Peoples” unrest is often assumed to be the West or South Asia Minor and the Aegean region. In addition to a large number of new archaeological finds that point in this direction, the Egyptian name Hau-nebut ( Ḥ3w-nbwt ) for the sea peoples, which means “inhabitants of the Aegean”, speaks for this.

The geoarchaeologist Eberhard Zangger suspects the origin of the sea peoples in northwestern Anatolia. He identifies it with the Achijawa mentioned in Hittite texts and suspects an alliance of power essentially controlled by Troy . Zangger (1994) used the “Trojan culture” to describe the region in which at least two dozen independent states between Thrace and Lycia would be united in an alliance, comparable to the “Mycenaean culture”, which represented a comparable political entity on the Greek mainland .

One of the implications of his theory is the historical reality of a " Trojan War ". Although it is controversially discussed in the scientific discussion, it could be - because of the historical size of the city ​​called Troy (in the excavation horizon Troja VIIa and Troja VI , also known as   Ilion VIIa and Ilion VI ), its economic importance for the movement of goods, the degree of their fortifications and the similarities in the various written sources matching them in terms of their political-economic significance - excellent to bring a conflict between an alliance around Troy and other states in the eastern Mediterranean into cover. According to Zangger, the so-called "Trojan War" was an important historical event that should be viewed more as a retaliatory strike against the Sea Peoples.

Achijawa ( transcription Aḫḫijawa ) with its center of power Troy would have been a military opponent of both Mycenae and Hatti . For Zangger, as also before Albrecht Götze (1928), Ahhijawa is an autochthonous country in Asia Minor located in northwestern Anatolia. Zangger assumes an important trading power, which was an important power factor especially in the 13th century - together with allied Luwian states in western Anatolia. The "Trojan War" was a war between Mycenaeans against Aḫḫijawa. Aḫḫijawa also had conflicts of interest with the Hittite Empire (Hatti).

After Troy was destroyed by the Mycenaean Greeks, the survivors fled to various regions in the eastern Mediterranean and took their technological knowledge (especially metalworking) with them. This explains the simultaneous appearance of Philistines and Phoenicians in the Levant, the Thracians in the Balkans or, a little later, the Etruscans in Italy. Zangger documented the theory in his book A New Battle for Troy - Archeology in Crisis.

The theory is essentially based on parallels in content between Hittite, Greek and Egyptian texts, on geoarchaeological findings and on the assumption, confirmed by recent excavations, that Troy was significantly larger than was often assumed up until the 1990s. Recent excavations, however, show a differentiated picture. Troy may have been a major trading center in the early Bronze Age, but not in the late Bronze Age, which is central to the theory.

Reviews of Luwian Studies

In October 2017, the Luwian Studies Foundation , whose Board of Trustees is chaired by Eberhard Zangger, published a notice that a drawing of a Luwian hieroglyphic inscription was discovered, which could provide clues to the origin of the Sea Peoples. The drawing comes from the estate of the British prehistorian James Mellaart, who died in 2012 . It was handed over to Zangger in June 2017 by his son Alan Mellaart, along with other documents, including translations by Albrecht Goetze .

Archaeologist Georges Perrot is said to have copied the hieroglyphs from a ruin in Beyköy in the İhsaniye district in 1878 , the stone blocks of which were later built into the foundation of a mosque. The 29 meter long inscription depicts military campaigns by the ruler Kupanta-Kurunta of the Kingdom of Mira , a great-grandson of the eponymous Kupanta-Kurunta , who was appointed vassal king over Mira by Muršili II . The highlight is a company of four Luwian princes of Western Asia Minor with 500 ships and 10,000 warriors against Cyprus, Carchemish and Syria, which led them to the borders of Egypt. The hieroglyphic writing was translated by Frederik Christiaan Woudhuizen , who called it Beyköy 2 .

The research, with the exception of the hypotheses by Zangger and Woudhuizen , is certain that the drawings published are a forgery by James Mellaart . The forger has some command of Luwian grammar, but his knowledge of the script was poor. In the inscription, signs that can be assigned palaeographically to different epochs are used side by side. Words are sometimes started in the middle of a column or even at the end of a column and then separated across the column. Such writings simply do not appear in hieroglyphic Luwian. In addition, the inscription shows ligatures that do not exist as such.

Relative dating of the forgery is not easy. Although the inscription obviously shows the old readings for the pairs of signs ? / ? and ? / ?, which have been obsolete since 1974, Walmu is referred to in the text as the King of Wilusa , which in Hittitology only after the discovery of the join of KUB 19.55 and KUB 48.90 ( Milawata letter ) in 1981. Certain passages even suggest that the forger also knew the bronze plaque (Bo 86/299), which was only published in 1988.

 Zangger himself told Live Science that he will only be convinced of the authenticity of the hieroglyphs if further copies of this inscription are found independently of Mellaart's estate, but he told The Times of Israel that it was too long, complicated and grammatically correct to have been forged by someone. Mellaart himself claimed that she could neither read cuneiform script nor Luwian hieroglyphics. There are only about 20 people who can read the Luwian script, which makes it difficult to forge. Live Science contacted many scientists unaffiliated with the research and some raised concerns that the inscription might be a hoax. Some have accused Mellaart of deliberately distributing a modern forgery, and since no physical record of the inscription has been found, it is impossible to know whether any of these writings are authentic.

Doubts about the authenticity of the inscription are in order. In an article by Live Science published in 2018, Zangger speaks of a "counterfeiting workshop" in which Mellart produced counterfeit after counterfeit. Although he is personally not sure that Beyköy 2 is completely made up, documents in Mellaart's apartment have shown that he mastered the Luwian script and was able to produce a forgery, whereas Mellart had always claimed that he was unable to use the script.

Other scholars were also critical, such as the Hittitologists Annick Payne and Max Gander from the Institute for Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bern in an article in Spiegel , referring to Mellart's drawings, which served as the sole source, and Zangger's working method. Both would “simply not stand up to a historical-critical review”.

Influence and connections of Italian ethnic groups with Mycenaean city-states, economy and war technology

The Bronze Age was the epoch of the founding of the first cities and states as well as the emergence of larger empires or dynasties under a central rule. Agricultural production no longer only served personal needs ( surplus ), but was also available with its products for the nutrition of those people who were employed in craft activities or were active in metal extraction and the transfer of goods or who protected these social areas militarily ( Social differentiation ). The differentiating, leading elites led to communities dependent on them. The rulers also secured their own claims to power through military force. In the late Bronze Age, in addition to administration in the empires and rulers, politics, trade relations and religions, organized warfare became the fundamental factor that shaped all societies. Using armed force, the troops of a ruled area waged organized conflicts with the aim of asserting the (competing) interests of one of the collectives involved.

According to Mull (2017), the discovery of copper-tin alloys - it replaced the initially common arsenic bronze - became a decisive step in cultural development. Due to the growing demand , especially in the eastern Mediterranean, the focus was on the establishment of logistical and organizational retail chains ( supply chain ) for the procurement of the necessary raw materials , their processing and the distribution or use of the manufactured items in exchange with other goods . From this economic centers developed whose important function was to organize trade flows. As a result, it came to accumulate portable wealth, which was a prerequisite for the emergence of an upper class.

In weapons technology were beside the chariot , composite bow , and the battle-ax to protect even helmets , shields and body armor available. Bronze scale armor probably only carried elite units, such as the chariot divisions.

Bronze dagger blades and arrowheads of the New Kingdom

The preferred melee weapons were dagger and hatchet. The typical armament consisted of preforms of the mace and the sword , such as the Egyptian Chepesch sword. The long-range weapons used were spears , slings and bows and arrows. The mace were also thrown frequently. Another important military innovation, originally by Mesopotamian armies of the Bronze Age, was the introduction of the pedestal ax. Their improvement had an enormous impact on the armed conflicts on the battlefield. Earlier axes had the difficulty that the ax head attached firmly to the handle, especially when the ax was handled with considerable force in combat. According to recent research by the archaeologists Jung and Mehofer , groups in the Aegean were also in close contact with Italy. This is indicated by the results of archaeometallurgical examinations on late Bronze Age swords and fibulae. The characteristic cutting swords of the Naue II type were accordingly made in Italy and spread from there over the Aegean Sea to the eastern Mediterranean. The typically Italian violin bow brooches, on the other hand, were made locally in the Aegean and the Levant and were probably carried by emigrants who belonged to sea peoples groups. Various waves of emigration then formed the sea peoples storm in a domino effect.

Mehofer and Jung (2013) see in their studies an alliance between Italian ethnic groups and the crumbling Mycenaean city-states. Around 1200 BC The Mycenaean palace culture collapsed. It disintegrated into city-states. These oriented u. a. of Italian ethnic groups who had developed advanced war technology. Mehofer and Jung's re-evaluation of the Bronze Age finds from Greece, Cyprus, the Levant and Egypt show that the weapons, for example, do not come from the respective regions, but rather belong to the urn field culture of Central Europe (around 1300–800 BC). This has been shown since the 13th century BC. A demonstrable change in function from pure thrusting to cutting swords . The Naue II type handle-tongue swords produced in Central Europe and Italy were more effective weapons. Such weapons were also used by the Sea Peoples. In the eastern Mediterranean was until the 13th century BC. BC mainly fought with stabbing swords , which functionally resembled the modern rapier or sword . The war tools of the Naue II type, on the other hand, could be used both as cutting and stabbing weapons. Such weapons systems were superior to the Greek, Levantine and Egyptian weapons, which contributed to the military success of the Sea Peoples.

From the 26th dynasty onwards, long spears and lances were introduced into Egypt ( military being in ancient Egypt ) , which then became the main weapon. Many soldiers carried two spears, the first thrown and the second saved for hand-to-hand combat.

For the various fighting soldiers who took part in the “sea peoples storms”, Egyptian images in particular often have special headgear or helmet shapes, the fighters often show brushed helmets or helmets with horn-like extensions. Mehofer and Jung (2013) see the use of improved bronze swords by the Sea Peoples as a military superiority in violent, armed conflicts. To the extent that the swords developed from functionally pure short thrusting weapons to long cutting and thrusting weapons, for example through a more sufficient combination of handle and blade ( handle-tongue swords ) or more effective bronze processing, the warriors also adapted their fighting technique. That is why so-called defensive weapons such as shields, greaves, breastplates and helmets became more important in the late Bronze Age. A change in warfare technology caused the upheavals. Before the crisis years, military conflicts were carried out with a central chariot battalion, after which the emphasis was on mobile infantry units.

“Sea peoples storm”, a multifactorial event at the end of the Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean

In the late Bronze Age, due to the specific local plate tectonics, there were frequent earthquakes that destroyed the central trading settlements over hundreds of kilometers and thus interrupted the flow of goods in and to Egypt, Syria and Greece. At the same time, wandering sea peoples appeared who attacked the coastal cities in the eastern Mediterranean.

According to Cline (2014), Bell (2006) or Renfrew (1979) and others, the effects of the sea peoples are to be interpreted as part of a complex process that marks the transition from the late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age (" Dark Century ") And that in a combination of natural disasters , such as earthquakes or earthquake storms, Hekla eruptions , periods of drought due to climatic changes, migration and disruption of trade routes of the late Bronze Age cultures and invasions to a systemic collapse in the various cultures, e.g. the Mycenaeans , Minoans , Hittites , Egyptians , Canaanites , Cypriots , Assyrians , Mitanni , Kassites , etc. led.

The following times are approximate, more precise in the individual articles. The Iron Age followed after the Bronze
Age .

Neues Reich Mittleres Reich Altes Reich Frühdynastische Periode (Ägypten) Prädynastik (Ägypten) Altes Ägypten Kassiten Altbabylonisches Reich Assyrisches Reich Ur-III-Zeit Reich von Akkade Sumerische Königsliste späte Bronzezeit mittlere Bronzezeit frühe Bronzezeit Alter Orient Klassische Bronzezeit
Middle East climate and postglacial expansion (in BP ).

The studies by Nur and Cline (2000) indicated that about fifty years between about 1230 and 1170 BC. BC were sufficient to politically, administratively and economically destabilize the regions in the eastern Mediterranean. Successive earthquakes ("earthquake storm") shook the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. Three tectonic plates meet in the region: the Eurasian, the African and the Arab. There were tremors along the cracks.

The tectonic map of the Eastern Mediterranean. The North Anatolian Fault , the Eastern Anatolian Fault and the Hellenic and Florence Trenches . The westward movement of the Anatolian block results from (1) differences in the speed of movement between the Arab and African plates , (2) different directions of movement between the Anatolian block and the Eurasian plate in the north, and (3) the subduction of the African plate below the Anatolian block at the trenches of Hellenic and Florence. The Arab plate moves north faster than the African plate, both relative to a stable Eurasian plate.

A hypothesis based solely on the assumption of an "earthquake storm" was contradicted by the work of Klaus-Günter Hinzen and Joseph Maran . So they could not find any evidence of such a natural event in the Bronze Age cities of Tiryns and Midea .

Concordances of rulers in the eastern Mediterranean

In the western part of the Middle East, the Early Bronze Age is assigned, among other things, the phases Troy  I and II, around 3000–2200 BC. Chr. Due to the different chronologies, all data show uncertainties regarding the time.

Concordance and overview of the cultural periods and periods in the eastern Mediterranean before the "sea peoples storm"
Crete Cyprus Mainland Greece Egypt approximate time frame corresponds to the period
MM IB, old palace period MC I BŠattuara I. MH I Amenemhet II to Nofrusobek ( 12th Dynasty ) Middle Kingdom approx. 2137–1781 BC Chr. Early Bronze Age (approx. 3100 to 2000 BC )
MM II, old palace period MC II MH II Wegaf / Sobekhotep I to Jaib ( 13th Dynasty ) Second intermediate period approx. 1648–1550 BC Chr. Middle Bronze Age (approx. 2000 to 1550 BC )
MM III A, old palace period MC III A MH II Aja I. to Hori (13th Dynasty) 1669 to around 1656 BC BC or 1647 BC Chr Middle Bronze Age
MM III B, New Palace period MC III B MH III (shaft graves) Second split 1648 to 1550 BC Chr. Transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age
SM IA, New Palace period LC IA SH I Ahmose I to Thutmose II ( 18th Dynasty ) New Kingdom approx. 1550-1070 BC Chr. Late Bronze Age (approx. 1550 to 1200 BC )
SM IB, New Palace period LC IB SH II A Hatshepsut , Thutmose III. (18th dynasty) 1479 to 1458 BC BC or 1479 BC BC to 1425 BC Chr. Late Bronze Age
SM II LC II SH II B Amenhotep II , Thutmose IV (18th Dynasty) 1428 to 1397 BC BC or 1397 to 1388 BC Chr. Late Bronze Age
SM III A1 LC III SH III A1 Amenhotep III (18th dynasty) 1388 to around 1351 BC Chr. Late Bronze Age
SM III A2 LC III SH III A2 Akhenaten to Tutankhamun / Eje II. (18th dynasty) 
( Amarna period 1343–1331 BC)
approx. 1351-1334 BC BC or 1332 to 1323 BC Chr. Late Bronze Age
Ruler in the Eastern Mediterranean from 1400 to 1323 BC Chr.
Egypt Hittites Mittani Babylon Assyria Kassites
Amenhotep III (1388-1351) Arnuwanda I (1400-1375) Tušratta (1380-1350) Kadašman-Enlil I (1374-1360) Eriba-Adad I (1391-1366) Burna-buriaš II (1359-1335)
Amenhotep IV (1351-1337) Tudḫaliya II. (1375-1355) Šattiwazza (1350-1320) Burna-buriaš II (1360-1333) Aššur-uballit I. (1365-1330) Kara Hardaš (1333) Nazi Bugaš (1333)
Semenchkare (1337-1333) Šuppiluliuma I. (1355–1322) Šattuara I. Kara-Hardaš (1333) Enlil-nirari (1329-1320) Kuri-galzu II (1332-1308)
Tutankhamun (1333-1323) Arnuwanda II (1322-1321) Wasashatta Nazi Bugaš (1333) Ārik-dēn-ili (1315-1300) Nazi Maruttaš (1307–1282)
Eje II. (1323-1319) Mursili II (1321-1295) Šattuara II. Kurigalzu II. (1333-1308) Adad-nirari I (1307-1275) Kadašman-Turgu (1281-1264)


(sorted alphabetically)


To the sea peoples storm under Ramses III.

  • Sabine Albers: The sea peoples storm. In: Kemet. Book 4: Ramses III. 2005, ISSN  0943-5972 , pp. 32-34.
  • Robert Drews: Medinet Habu: Oxcarts, Ships and Migration Theories. In: Journal of Near Eastern Studies 59, No. 3, 2000.
  • Wolfgang Helck : Again to Ramses III. Sea Peoples War. In: Studies on Ancient Egyptian Culture. (SAK) 14, 1987, pp. 129-145.
  • Eileen Hirsch: Ramses III. and his relationship with the Levant. In: Egypt and the Old Testament. (ÄUAT) Volume 36, No. 3, Wiesbaden 2003.
  • Marcus Müller: The battle against the sea peoples under Ramses III. In: Kemet. Book 4: War and Peace. 2009, ISSN  0943-5972 , pp. 38-42.
  • Heike Sternberg-el Hotabi : The struggle of the sea peoples against Pharaoh Ramses III. (= Archeology, inscriptions and monuments of ancient Egypt. Volume 2). Marie Leidorf, Rahden (Westphalia) 2012, ISBN 978-3-86757-532-4 .
  • Werner Widmer: On the representation of the sea peoples at the Great Temple of Medinet Habu. In: Journal for Egyptian Language and Antiquity. (ZÄS) 102, 1975, pp. 67-77.

More detailed questions

  • Shirly Ben-Dor Evian: "They were thr on land, others at sea ..." The Etymology of the Egyptian Term for "Sea-Peoples" . In: Michael Langlois (Ed.): Semitica 57 . Peeters, Löwen 2015, p. 57–75 ( digitized [accessed November 26, 2015]).
  • Manfred Bietak : On the conquest of Palestine by the Sea Peoples and the end of the Egyptian province of Kana'an. In: Communications from the German Archaeological Institute, Cairo Department. (MDAIK) 47 (FS Kaiser), 1991, pp. 35-50.
  • Manfred Dietrich, Oswald Loretz: The downfall on January 21, 1192 BC. By Ugarit? The astronomical-hepatoscopic report KTU 1.78 (= RS 12.061). (= Ugarit Research. Volume 34; International Yearbook for Archeology Syria-Palestine. 2002). Ugarit-Verlag, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-934628-33-8 , p. 53 ff.
  • Robert Drews: The End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe ca. 1200 BC Princeton University Press, Princeton 1993, ISBN 0-691-04811-8 .
  • Trude Dothan , Mosche Dothan : The Philistines, Civilization and Culture of a Sea People . Diederichs, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-424-01233-5 .
  • Wolfgang Helck : The relationship between Egypt and the Middle East and the Aegean until the 7th century BC Chr. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1962 (also: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1979, 1995, ISBN 3-534-12904-0 )
  • Gustav Adolf Lehmann: The 'Political-Historical' Relationships of the Aegean World in the 15th – 13th centuries Century BC on the Middle East and Egypt: some references. In: Joachim Latacz (Ed.): Two hundred years of Homer research. (= Colloquium Rauricum. Volume 2). Teubner, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-519-07412-5 , pp. 105-126.
  • Abraham Malamat : The Egyptian decline in Canaan and the Sea-Peoples. Massadah, Tel-Aviv 1971.
  • Colleen Manassa: The Great Karnak Inscription of Merenptah: Grand Strategy in the 13 th Century BC. (= Yale Egyptological Studies. Volume 5). Yale Egyptological Seminar, Department of Near Estern Languages ​​and Civilizations, The Graduate School, Yale University, New Haven 2003, ISBN 0-9740025-0-X .
  • Othniel Margalith: The sea peoples in the Bible. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1994, ISBN 3-447-03516-1 .
  • Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier : The Mycenaeans in Western Anatolia and the Problem of the Origins of the Sea Peoples. In: S. Gitin, A. Mazar, E. Stern (Eds.): Mediterranean Peoples in Transition. Thirteenth to Early Tenth Centuries BCE. Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem 1998, ISBN 965-221-036-6 , pp. 17-65.
  • Edward Noort: The Sea Peoples in Palestine. (= Palaestina antiqua. NS Volume 8). Kok Pharos, Kampen 1994, ISBN 90-390-0012-3 .
  • Anthony John Spalinger: War in ancient Egypt: the New Kingdom (= Ancient world at war ). Blackwell, Oxford 2005, ISBN 1-4051-1372-3 .
  • Michael Sommer: The Fall of the Hittite Empire: Anatolia and the Eastern Mediterranean around 1200 BC Chr. Saeculum , Karl Alber, Freiburg / Munich, Volume 52, 2001, Volume II, ISBN 3-495-45567-1 [13]
  • Karl Jansen-Winkeln : Egyptian history in the age of migrations of sea peoples and Libyans. In: EA Braun-Holziger, H. Matthäus (ed.): The Middle Eastern cultures and Greece at the turn of the 2nd to the 1st millennium BC Chr. Bibliopolis, Möhnesee, ISBN 978-3-933925-27-5 , pp. 123-141.
  • Frederik Christiaan Woudhuizen: The Ethnicity of the Sea Peoples. Dissertation. Rotterdam 2006.
  • Eberhard Zangger : A New Struggle for Troy - Archeology in Crisis. Droemer Knaur, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-426-26682-2 . ( PDF; 4 MB ).

Web links

Commons : Sea Peoples  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  • Matthias Hennies: Enigma about the Bronze Age. Why Troy and other cities burned. SWR2 Wissen, manuscript of the broadcast: Wednesday, October 25, 2017, 8:30 a.m., SWR 2017 [18] ( Südwestrundfunk broadcast of October 25, 2017 (28 minutes; 26.4 MB) [19] )
  • Apocalypse in the Bronze Age - the end of the first high cultures, ZDF History (October 30, 2017 45 minutes [20] )
  • Friedrich Klütsch: The giant Goliath - on the trail of the sea peoples. Terra X 87, 2007 [21]

References and comments

  1. the late Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean.
  2. ^ Frederik Christiaan Woudhuizen: The ethnicity of the sea peoples. PhD thesis, Erasmus Universiteit, Rotterdam 2006 ( full text ).
  3. after Eric H. Cline, Darmstadt 2015) the following places have been described: Sicily , Sardinia , Apennines , but possibly also from the Aegean region, Western Anatolia , Cyprus .
  4. Eric H. Cline : The First Fall of Civilization. Wbg Theiss, Darmstadt 2015, ISBN 978-3-8062-3782-5 , p. 24 f.
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