WPT University Place: 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed

WPT University Place: 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed


(audience applauds) – Thank you, Sarah,
and many thanks to the Center for the Humanities, and to Emily Clark especially
for working with us to present this lecture tonight. Eric Cline is Professor of
Classics and Anthropology at George Washington University and is the Director
of the Capitol
Archaeological Institute. An archaeologist and ancient
historian by training, Doctor Cline’s primary
fields of study are biblical archaeology, the military history of
the Mediterranean world from antiquity to the present, and the international
connections between
Greece, Egypt, and the Near East during
the Late Bronze Age. He is an experienced and
active field archaeologist with more than 30
seasons of excavation and survey to his
credit in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, Greece,
and in the United States. Doctor Cline is
currently co-director of the archaeological
excavations at the site of Tel Kabri in Israel,
which began in 2006. He was also a member of the
Megiddo Expedition in Israel, excavating at biblical
Armageddon for 10 seasons, from 1994 to 2014,
and eventually serving as co-director of that project. He is also a prolific
researcher and author. He is perhaps best known
for writing books such as Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: International Trade in the
Late Bronze Age Aegean, Jerusalem Besieged: From
Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel. He’s also contributed
books to the Very Short Introduction
series, published by Oxford, on the Trojan War and on
the biblical archaeology. And that’s just to name
a few titles from among his 16 books and over
100 articles and reviews. In July 2015, Professor
Cline was named a member of the inaugural class
of the NEH Public Scholars. He is also a National
Geographic Explorer and a Fulbright Scholar. He has won numerous
awards for his teaching, including the
National Excellence in Undergraduate
Teaching Award from the Archaeological Institute
of America in 2005. His most recent book, 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed, the subject of this
evening’s lecture, received the Best Popular
Book Award in 2014 from the American Schools
of Oriental Research. This book explains how
human and natural events coalesced to create
a perfect storm that brought Bronze Age
civilization to an end in the Eastern Mediterranean
and in the ancient Near East. And so, without further ado, I’m happy to welcome
Professor Eric Cline to speak on the subject. (audience applauds) – Thank you so much. It is a pleasure to be here and a bit daunting to
see all of you here. No pressure, no pressure.
(audience laughs) It’s wonderful to be here. I haven’t been in Madison
since, I think, 1994. So it’s changed a bit, but
it’s wonderful to be here. And I’d like to thank
everyone who was involved in bringing me here: The
Center for the Humanities, Isthmus, and especially CANES. And I welcome the
new departments. So wonderful, we have a
similar department at GW where I teach, but our
name is not quite as nice. We’re the Classical and
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, which
comes out to be CENEL. So everybody refers
to us as senile. (audience laughs) I think CANES is
probably better. Anyway, and it’s nice
to be here and see so many old friends
and meet some new ones, in particular, for example,
Professor Nick Cahill. I was my very first
dig him way back when. Longer than both
of us want to say. And other people here as well. But it’s nice to see old
people and meet new people, especially all of you. So without further ado,
what I would like to do is introduce to you
the Late Bronze Age of the Aegean and
Eastern Mediterranean, which will not be
new to some of you, might be new to all of
you, or others of you. What I propose to
do is to build it up and then bring it crashing down. And that is one
of the mysteries, is exactly why it
came crashing down. So this is the area that
we’re going to be looking at. This is the Aegean and
the Eastern Mediterranean. And in the years of
the Late Bronze Age, which is 1700 to 1200 BC, a number of different cultures or civilizations
flourished back then. But we have to remember
that this is just the last part of the Bronze Age, which really starts
back in about 3000 BC, when you’ve got the invention
of bronze, copper, plus tin. We’re going to focus in
on the last part of it, and at this time
we’ve got what I call the G8 of the Late
Bronze Age world. It’s actually
cheating a little bit because in order to get eight, I have to combine the
Mycenaeans and Minoans of Greece into one, which they
would protest at, but we’ve got Minoans
and Mycenaeans up here. We have the Hittites
in purple up in Turkey. Here, we’ve got the
Egyptians, of course, coming up all this
way, Mitanni in red, then we’ve got the Assyrians
and the Babylonians. Plus we’ve got the Cypriots
and the Canaanites. And I think that comes out
to eight or nine people. All of these are interacting. It is a very international
and globalized world for its time, which
I will get to. And I dare say that more of you know this period
than might expect. If you’re sitting here going, “I’ve never heard of
the Late Bronze Age. “I don’t even know what’s
going on back then,” actually I do think you
know more people back then. For example, how many people
have heard of Hatshepsut? Right, female
pharaoh, right, okay. Good, so she’s in
our time period. How about Thutmose
III, anybody for that? My boy Amenhotep III, my
favorite guy in antiquity? (audience laughs) We’ll come back to him. His son Akhenaten,
the Heretic Pharaoh? Right, okay. So all these people
are in this period. I dare say a couple of you
have heard of King Tut, yes? Right, are you all waiting to
see what’s in the new rooms? Yeah, I’m predicting
they’re going to be full. I don’t know if it’s
Nefertiti back there, but I think there’s going
to be stuff in there,
so we’re waiting. Ramses II, perhaps the
Pharaoh of the Exodus and then the guy that we’re
going to be looking at tonight over there, Ramses III. So this is the period. These were most of the
Egyptians, of course. Everybody else is around. But this is my absolute
favorite time in history. If I could be, I guess I don’t even know
what the word would be, if I could be
resurrected backwards and live in any time period,
it would be this period. I don’t think I would survive
for more than about 48 hours, (audience laughs) but it would be a
very fun 48 hours. (audience laughs) I’d love to have a chat with both Amenhotep
III and Akhenaten. “Akenaten, what are
you thinking of? “What on Earth were you doing?” Anyway, so this is the period
that we will be in tonight. And, of course, we’ve got
the Battle of Qadesh as well. If you’ve heard of that. The Trojan War, I dare say
some of you have heard of that. How many of you saw the
movie with Brad Pitt? (audience laughs) How many wish they
hadn’t seen it? (audience laughs) And then if it took place, the Exodus will have
taken place here. That’s not our topic
tonight however. So what I want to stress
tonight as I’m building it up, before I bring it
all crashing down, is the fact that this is
a globalized world system. Now it’s not global, of course,
as we would consider it, but for their time
period and their area, from, say, Italy on the west to about Afghanistan
or Iran on the east, this whole area
is interconnected. Nobody is more than
just a couple of hops away from everybody else. And everybody is interacting, everybody is dependent
upon everyone else to a certain extent. And, in fact, there are
only a couple of times in history where we’ve
got such a globalized, interconnected system. One is us today, and
one is them back then. So I actually think
that there are more parallels than
you might expect. Back then they had
wonderful royal marriages, they had really bitter divorces, they had embargoes,
they had embassies, pretty much, you know,
the same sort of thing that we’ve got today. And this particular
diagram, a socio-gram, is made by my wife, Diane Cline, who is now doing social
network analysis, looking at all the interactions
between the people. And she made this up. It’s demonstrating that
is, what we would call a small world, where
everybody is interconnected. And we actually had an
article that just came out two days ago where
we tried to do this to the Amarna Letters and
we put together everybody that’s mentioned in
the Amarna Letters and their relationships
with each other and came out with a small
world at about 1350 BC. So put it another way here, you’ve got the King
of Egypt in the middle and then everybody that
is writing to everybody. And you can see how
interconnected they are at that time period. So this is just to demonstrate
the types of things that we can do now in
digital humanities, where we’re looking basically
at old data in new ways. And so she, in fact,
is applying this to Alexander the
Great and Socrates. And so at one point, I
brightly said at dinner, “Hey, wait, we could do this
for the Amarna Letters.” And she’s like, “Yeah, no
problem, do you want to do it?” I’m like, “Yeah, sure.” So we actually
co-authored the article, which is the first that
we’ve ever done that. So, very interesting. At any rate, you
can see just how connected people are back then. Now, one of the things that’s
connecting them, of course, is the need for
both tin and copper because you can’t make bronze unless you’ve got
both tin and copper. Well, actually, you could. If you’ve got arsenic instead
of tin you can use that, but between you and me, you’re
not going to live very long if you’re using arsenic
plus copper, right. Tin is much better. So 90% copper, 10% tin. Now, most of the copper, in
fact almost of all of it, is coming from
Cyprus, right, Cipros, that’s where the
name comes from. And at that time, you could get a little bit of tin
from southern Turkey. You might be able to
venture up to Cornwall, though I don’t think
they did that that often. But most of the tin is
coming from off this map in what is now Afghanistan, the Badakhshan
region specifically. And in fact, not only
tin comes from there, but does anybody have
any lapis lazuli jewelry? Lapis comes from there as well. So lapis and tin is coming
all the way from Afghanistan. And if you can imagine
the trade route being cut at any point, then
you could be in real trouble. So in fact, we’ve got
written records about this. This is one of the tablets we’ve got from Mari, which is on the Euphrates
over here in Syria. I think it’s busy being looted
by ISIS even as we speak. But in the Mari tablets, which
date back to about 1800 BC, before our time period, we’re already seeing
that they’re talking
about tin coming. And the tin is going
to come to Mari, and then it’s going
to go to Ugarit. And then from Ugarit,
it’s going to go to Crete. And in fact, the text talks
about the Caphtorians, which is the name for
Crete in Akkadian. And they’re talking, in fact,
about an interpreter as well. So we’ve got somebody
that’s speaking multiple languages back then. And so you can see
the route of the tin. Now, in fact, my
colleague Carol Bell from England has actually
said that for them, the importance of tin, well, it’s like our dependence on oil. And that she thinks
that the king in Egypt and the king up in
Turkey, the Hittites, were as concerned about their
supplies of tin as, say, Obama or a US President
would be concerned about the source of oil. So, again, there is
a parallel there. Now, in these Mari Letters, we not only have
the text about tin, but we’ve got some
interesting things as well. It seems that they’re importing
stuff from Crete already, including finished objects. So we have here a
Caphtorian weapon, so a Minoan weapon from Crete. The top and the base
are covered with gold. Its top is encrusted
with lapis lazuli. So it would have looked
something like this. Now this isn’t it, this is
a dagger from the Death Pits of Ur back in about 2500 BC. But I think it would have
looked something like this, and I don’t know about you,
but I want one of these. (audience laughs) Alright, I’d happily have
a concealed weapon permit if I could carry one of these. And I think they’re
fairly unusual. But there’s another one. There’s another text that is
actually my absolute favorite in which it says, “One
pair of leather shoes “in the Caphtorian
style,” so Minoan. So it’s going to be
sandals, I think. It could be boots from Khania
but I bet it’s sandals. “Which to the palace
of Hammurabi,” and, yes, that’s the Hammurabi, as in, “An eye for an eye
and a tooth for a tooth,” “King of Babylon, and
official name Bahdi-Lim, “carried but which
were returned.” Now, I’ve always
wondered about this. You’re going to get
sandals from Crete and then you return them? I mean, are they too small? (audience laughs) Are they too last-millennium? (audience laughs) And in fact, I had my students
go through the Law code, and there’s, what, 272
or 282 laws in there, and they came back
to me and they said, “You know, there’s no
law, there’s no penalty “for returning shoes.” I said, “Exactly!”
(audience laughs) But I am surprised he
didn’t re-gift them. I mean, “These are
too small for me “but they’re perfect for you “and they’re all
the way from Crete.” Anyways, so this is
one of my favorites. It just shows that nothing
has changed, all right. Now, at this time,
just to show you some of the interconnections
that we’ve got, where everybody is
trading with everybody for raw materials as well
as finished goods, right, you’ve got things like
sandals and daggers, but bear in mind that
gold at that time is going to come from
Egypt, Nubian Sudan. The copper, like I
said, is from Cyprus. You’re going to get silver
from various places. So they’re really trading
for pretty much everything. So for example,
we’ve got Hatshepsut sending an embassy down to Punt. She’s not the first person
and she won’t be the last. But she tells us
where it is, in fact, she gives us pictures
of what they bring down. And she even shows
us in this picture of the Queen of Punt, Ati. The problem is we’re not
quite sure of where Punt is, or rather we weren’t sure
until relatively recently. They did a test on some
baboons in the British Museum, and they determined
that, in fact, the land of Punt is probably
Eritrea or Ethiopia, which was probably the
prime contender anyway. So now we think we know where
Punt is, fairly recently. We’ve also got wall
paintings in the tombs. This is the tomb of Rekhmire, 18th Dynasty, New Kingdom. This is going to be
the time of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III. And in here as
well as in another, another couple of tombs, we’ve got what look like
Minoans and Mycenaeans here. In fact, one of the
kilts is over-painted, so people have suggested
we are seeing Minoans being overtaken by Mycenaeans. Either way, they’re
coming from Greece. They’re coming from
the Aegean region and they’re bringing goods
that we would normally see in mainland Greece and Crete. So in another tomb, for example, where the guy over here
is carrying a bull’s head, that’s pretty much,
obviously, coming from Crete. And in fact, we’ve got
inscriptions next to us that tell us this, right, so for the Egyptians it’s
Keftiu, is the name of Crete. So this is where my boy
comes in, Amenhotep III. This is his mortuary temple. I know you’re thinking
there’s not an awful lot there and you’re correct, in fact, there’s just the two big
colossi at the entrance. Right, The Colossi of Memnon. Who’s been there?
Who’s seen these in person? Yeah, okay, big, 60-foot-tall, right, one of them used
to cry every morning. The god would speak and
then when an earthquake hit, the god stopped talking. So it was probably
just expanding and contracting
with the desert air. These stood at the front of
Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple, but it’s all gone because
the later pharaohs mined it away for
their own temples. Why go make your own stuff when you can just rip
off this guy who’s dead and build your own
temple out of his stuff? So most of it’s gone
except for these. There is an excavation
ongoing right now, and in fact, they’re
uncovering more statues there. The statues I am
interested in, though, are about to about two thirds
of the way towards the back. And you see them here.
These are much smaller. The original statues
were probably only
about 10 feet tall, so a little over life-sized. And originally they
found five of them. The new excavations now have
uncovered almost 40 of these. And the thing
about these is that around the statue base, they have the names of places that were known to
Egypt at that time. Now this is going
to be somewhere about 1391 to 1353 BC,
so the 14th-century. That’s when Amenhotep is ruling. And one names
places in Babylonia, one names places in Assyria, one names Hittite places. This particular one names
places in the Aegean. It has names of places
that have never appeared in Egypt before and
will never again. Now you can see there’s
two on this side, and that’s all there are. And then there’s about 14
going around this side. They are all bound up,
they’re like prisoners. And then there’s what looks like a cartouche almost in there. It’s actually a fortified oval that depicts a fortified city. And people said, “Oh,
this means the Egyptians “actually conquered them.” It’s like, “No, this is
an iconographic convention “to show a foreign place.” And so in those ovals,
we’ve got on the right side those two that
were by themselves, Keftiu and Tanaja. So Keftiu is Crete. Tanaja is probably
mainland Greece. It’s been argued, as some
people wanted it to be Rhodes, some people wanted it elsewhere. I think now the only
possible place it can be is the mainland of Greece. And in part I say that
because of the other names, Amnisos, Phaistos, Kydonia,
Mycenae, Dikte. And then it keeps going, including Nauplion,
Knossos, Amnisos again. And in fact, when
this was first found, it was published in 1965. And the original
translator, Kenneth Kitchen, a very eminent British
Egyptologist said, “I hardly dare
suggest but these look “uncomfortably like
Mycenae and Knossos.” And, yes, that’s
my British accent. That’s the best I can do.
(audience laughs) Well, he was quite right, it is Mycenae and it is Knossos,
and it’s others as well. The question is, what’s this
doing in Egypt at this time? Well, it turns out, if
you go to the Aegean at many of the sites
that are mentioned on this statue base,
you actually have objects with Amenhotep’s
name on them or his wife. Now, you can read this
as easily as I can, so you know that this
says, you can, right? Yeah, Neb-Ma’at-Re,
the good god, and then Nebma-Ra, that’s
the name of Amenhotep III. And we’ve got pieces
from maybe as many as 10, 10 or 11 of these
Faience Plaques, which are not
found anywhere else outside of Egypt
except at Mycenae. So I think that these
are the remnants of what may have been a
royal embassy or royal gift, something like that. These are not your
run-of-the-mill bric-a-brac. At other places,
like at Knossos, we’ve got one of his scarabs. And then also as
I say, his wife, Queen Tiyi, we’ve
got them as well. What I am wondering,
what I think happened is that what is recorded
on the statue base is actually kind of a
geographical itinerary, that if you follow them in
the order that they’re listed, you go from Egypt to Crete
and then you go around and up into mainland Greece, and then you come back to Crete and go off to Egypt again. And I actually think that’s
why Amnisos is on there twice. You go in from Crete,
from Egypt up to Crete, and it’s just like
taking a long car ride. You get there, you say, “Okay, first stop Amnisos,
who needs the bathroom? “Who needs coffee?” And they’re like, “You’ve
been driving for hours.” And then you go around and up and come back through Kydonia
and you hit Amnisos again. And you’re like, “Last
stop on the turnpike, “it’s 23 miles unbtil
we get to the next one.” So I can’t think of
any other explanation why Amnisos would
be on there twice. If you have one let me know. So I’m proposing, and
I am not the first. Vronwy Hankey came up
with this before me, but I think the evidence
is supporting this. So again, I show that as
evidence of interconnections in this case between Egypt and
Greece in the 14th-century. And this type of
thing is supported by some of the
archaeological finds, including the
Uluburun shipwreck, which went down
at about 1300 BC. We see up top an
Egyptian wall painting and then down the bottom
the National Geographic reconstruction of what this
ship would have looked like. So here is the remains. It’s between 140
and 170 feet deep, off the coast of Turkey. Anybody dive here?
Anybody certified? Anybody ever gone
down that deep? It’s off the diving charts. George Bass who was excavating
along with Cemal Pulak, they said it’s as if
you’ve two martinis and then you tried to go
work at 140 feet down. So they would only go down
for 20 minutes at a time. But they did it for
a dozen years or so. So you can see what
we’ve got here, including these
right down the hole. You see those big blocks
with a hole in them. Anybody guess what those are? – [Audience] Stone anchors. – Yeah, stone
anchors, absolutely. As you got one stuck and
you had to cut it off, you would just go down,
so they’re being used as ballast until they’re needed. And then over here,
all these guys are the copper oxhide ingots. This was 99% pure copper. It’s coming from Cyprus. Each of these looks
like an ox hide, as if you’ve killed a
cow, cut off its head, and either hung it up on the
wall or put it on the floor. So it is in the
shape of an ox hide. Some of you who know or may
recognize Nicolle Hirschfeld, she’s the only one who
never wears a jacket at 140 feet down. She is carrying a
Canaanite jar there. Notice she’s got no flippers on because that would
have accidentally
excavated in the sand. So they would take them off
when they got down there. (coughs) There
are as many as 300 of these ingots on there and
George Bass at one point said that it was enough to outfit
an army of 300 soldiers, the amount of copper
and of tin on board. So think swords, shields,
greaves, everything. Somebody lost a fortune. I hope they were insured. (audience laughs) Seriously, they actually
did have insurers back then over in the Near East, so
I hope they were insured. So there’s about 10 tons
of raw copper on board. There’s also about
a ton of raw tin. You see a bun ingot here, and then a quarter of one
of those oxhide ingots, and then a couple of
objects made out of tin. We’ve also got terebinth resin from the pistachio tree. Among other things, it
was used to color wax, get the yellow color,
but also used in perfume, like at Mycenaen Pylos. We’ve got ivory, both
elephant and hippopotamus. And in fact, once
this came to light, they went back and
tested all the ivory in places like the British
Museum and the Louvre. And to their surprise,
most of it is hippo, it’s not elephant, which
was quite interesting. Up top, my absolute
favorite objects on here, also raw material, also
on little bun ingots, this is raw glass. In this case it’s
colored with cobalt, so it’s blue, but they’ve
also got pink ones, and brown ones, and yellow ones. And in fact, when
they were analyzed at the Corning Museum of Glass, they match the glass
both in Mycenaen Greece and in New Kingdom Egypt. So they’re all getting their
glass from the same source, which is a nice, unified
part of the world. And here, unused, unused pottery from
Cyprus and from Canaan, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. So somebody is sending
this stuff around. And in fact, the
original excavators from National
Geographic back in 1987 thought that the ship was going around and round
and round and round. I’m not so sure about that. I think it actually matches
some of the descriptions that we’ve got of royal gifts. So I wouldn’t be
at all surprised if this is actually a gift
from king to another, which is the type
of thing that we see in these Amarna Letters. So in this case it may be a gift that’s going to
somebody on Crete or in mainland Greece, but we’ll never
know because it sank right off here at
the coast of Turkey. It is also possible, I
suggested with my colleague Assaf Yasur-Landau, that it
may have been the other way, that it might have been
a ship coming from Greece on a shopping trip
because everything that they would have
needed back home, they’re getting from over here. So it’s like, “Go
get some raw glass, “and some copper, and some tin, “and don’t forget the
milk while you’re out.” But in that case, the
ship never came back. So the upshot is that
we know that there are seven different
cultures on board. It looks like it’s
heading to the Aegean, but we don’t actually
know who sent it. And in fact, there
seem to be a number of different nationalities
that’s on board. So for me the Uluburun
ship is actually a microcosm of the kind
of globalized nature of the world in the
Late Bronze Age. And we’ve got textual
evidence for this as well. We’ve got written evidence here, the Sinaranu Text from 1260 BC. “From the present day
Ammistamru, son of Niqmepa, “King of Ugarit,” that’s on
the north coast of Syria, “exempts Sinaranu, Son
of Siginu, his grain, “his beer, his olive-oil, “to the palace he
shall not deliver. “His ship is exempt when
it arrives from Crete.” So we’ve got written
evidence that a merchant in northern Syria is
sending a ship to Crete and bringing back grain,
beer, and olive oil, and he’s not going
to pay taxes on it. So I actually think we’ve got the first corporate tax
exemption here in history. (audience laughs) Now, that’s what we’ve got then. I’ve showed you what we’ve got. It’s a nice globalized society
for its time and place. Everybody is merrily
reciprocating with
everybody else, they’re trading,
they’ve got diplomacy. You’ve got, again, the
Assyrians, the Canaanites, the Mitanni, and so on. It’s working like clockwork, but into this we toss
a little bit of chaos, and one by one everything
just winks out, until we’re only
left with Egypt. And even Egypt is
so hurt, basically, ’round about the 1177 BC that it’s never the same again. It was a Pyrrhic victory
for it when it won. So, this is the collapse, just after 1200 BC and
pretty much everything that you see on
this map collapses. Everything I’ve
just been describing for the last half-hour or
so is now going to go away. So I’ve built it up and now I’m going to
collapse it for you. When this hit, this
catastrophe was so enormous that I think the only
thing to compare it to is the fall of the Roman Empire, which took place
1500 years later. And I actually think this
might be bigger in its own way. The problem is we don’t
know what caused it. Now, that’s where
this book came in. When I met with Rob Tempio of
Princeton University Press, and some of you know him, he came down to DC and
took me out to dinner. That’s the best way to
get me to write a book,
take me to dinner. And he said, “I want you to
writ a book on the collapse.” And I said, “Well, sure,
but it’s already been done. “I mean Robert
Drews did it for you “and, in fact, Princeton
published it back in 1993.” And he said, “Yeah,
but, you know, “things have advanced
in 20 years.” I said, “Yeah, sure.” I said, “But I’ll tell you what, “what I want to do is also
write about what collapsed.” And he said, “Okay, agreed.” So in this book, the first
and then the last two chapters are about the collapse,
but the whole middle part is what I just described to you. We go 15th century, 14th
century, 13th century because to me, what collapsed
is just as interesting and just as important and
how or why it collapsed. Now this is not the first time that somebody talked
about collapse, of course. There was a guy
named Edward Gibbon who did something similar (audience laughs) when he wrote about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Joseph Tainter in
1988 wrote a book on the collapse of
complex societies. Very interesting book. And then I’m presuming,
how many of you have read Jared
Diamond’s book Collapse? Right, okay. So I’m in good company here. The difference is that
in each of these cases those authors are talking
about the collapse of one civilization: Rome. And then in the other books, they’re doing civilization
by civilization by chapter. So here, we’ve got a bunch
of different civilizations all linked together that all
go down at the same time. So I show you this
picture again, where it’s going to be this
globalized world system that goes down all
at the same time. And I think that’s unique. Now what caused it? Well, the original
hypothesis was that it was the Sea Peoples, and we know these Sea Peoples
from the Egyptian texts. In fact, we know
that they come twice. They come in 1207 and
1177, 30 years apart. The first time they’re
during the reign of Merneptah in his fifth year,
and the second time, they’re in Ramses III’s
time in his eighth year. Now of course the Egyptologists
keep changing the years, so actually a better
title for the book would have been Eighth
Year of Ramses III but it didn’t quite
have the cachet. (audience laughs) And, in fact, when
the book came out, I got a nice e-mail from
a colleague in New York that all it said was,
“Congratulations. “The title should
have been 1186.” (audience laughs) I sent him back
a two-word email. (audience laughs) And, no, it’s not
what you’re thinking. (audience laughs) My email simply said, “It was.” (audience laughs) And, indeed, I can show
you the original contract that I signed back in
2007 was for a book called 1186 BC: The Year
Civilization Collapsed, but in the years that it took
me to research and write it, the Egyptologists changed
the chronology on me again. So I changed it to 1177. And guess what? At the ASOR meetings
in Atlanta last week, they told me they’ve
changed it back again. (audience laughs) So look for a revised edition
with a different number. At any rate what we’ve got then, we’re just going to
concentrate on the second one, the eighth year of Ramses III, but you can see where
the title comes from now. At Medinet Habu, which
is his mortuary temple, on the wall there,
he has a picture and then inscriptions talking
about these Sea Peoples. And in fact, Gaston Maspero, a rather famous
French Egyptologist, already by the 1860s had
read this text and said, “Ah, the Sea Peoples,
they are responsible “for the collapse at the
end of the Late Bronze Age.” Never mind that none of the
sites had been excavated yet. Still, the theory was
solidified by 1901. And thereafter whenever
they found the destruction for one of this sites at
about the right time period, they simply attributed
it to the Sea Peoples. And I think that this
is maybe a bit much. But here’s what the
inscription says. You can judge for yourself. I won’t read you
the whole thing but, “The foreign countries made a
conspiracy in their islands. “All at once the
lands were removed “and scattered in the fray. “No land could stand
before their arms, “from Khatte, Qode, Carchemish.” Now we know where
these are, right? Khatte are the
Hittites up in Turkey. Qode is down where
Turkey meets Syria, and Carchemish is near there. Arzawa, that’s on the
western coast of Turkey. Alashiya, that’s
ancient Cypress. All of these, “Cut
off at one time! “A camp was set up at
in one place in Amor.” That’s Amurro on the
north coast of Syria. “They desolated its people, “its land was like that which
has never come into being. “They were coming
forward toward Egypt, “while the flame was
prepared before them.” And then he tells
us who they are. “Their confederation
was the Peleset, “the Tjekker, the Shekelesh, ” the Denyen, and the
Weshesh, lands united.” You notice he doesn’t
call them the Sea Peoples. He actually gives
them their names. Some of these are the same ones that had come 30 years earlier. Others are new. There’s about nine
groups all told if you merge the two invasions. “They laid their
hands upon the lands “as far as the
circuit of the earth, “their hearts
confident and trusting, “‘Our plans will succeed!'” Well, their plans
did not succeed, courtesy of the Egyptians. And in fact, we’re told
on the Papyrus Harris, “I overthrew those who
invaded them from their lands. “I slew the Denyen who
are in their isles, “the Tjekker and the
Peleset were made ashes. “The Shardana and the
Weshesh of the sea, “they were made as
those that exist not.” So you can actually
see where Maspero got the Sea Peoples
or Peoples of the Sea because they are
describing some of these as coming from islands or seas, but that’s our name for them. Okay, and we actually see them. So here are some
of the Sea Peoples, in fact, it’s a little
late for Halloween, but if you want
to dress up as one all you have to do is
take a look at these. There’s actually a cheaper
way to do it, though. When I was in graduate school, the two people the
year behind me came to a Halloween
party with about 150 of these cardboard
letters, pinned. They were all the letter C. We said, “Who are
you, what are you?” They said, “We’re Sea Peoples.” (audience laughs) They won first place for a
costume that cost about $1.50. So if you’re looking for
a costume for next year, you can steal that idea. Now, the problem is
that we don’t know where these people come from and we
don’t know where they go to. It’s one of history’s mysteries. So Shardana, Shekelesh, Tjekker, the game we’ve been
playing for decades now is trying to match up a
place in the Mediterranean somewhere that sounds like this. I mean, you can play
the game too, Shardana. Name me a place that has
the same sort of consonants. Sardinia. Shardana/Sardinia, right. So that’s one. Shekelesh, somewhere
near Sardinia? People have suggested
Sicily, for example. And so on.
Tjekker may be from the Troad. Denyen, these could
be the Donaans, some people have suggested. The Weshsesh, we’re
not quite sure. Some people like to say
Wilusa, which could be Troy. It’s only the Peleset that
we’re fairly confident about, namely the Philistines. And, in fact,
Champollion, the guy that deciphered hieroglyphics, already suggested that the
Peleset where the Philistines. And the Bible says
they come from Crete. So, take it as you will. But even that, this is all
still just a guessing game. The only one that we
really know much about are the Philistines
because we’re finding their archaeology in
what is now Israel and Lebanon and Syria
and it looks a lot like what we would call
degenerate Mycenaean. It’s as if a Mycenaean
Greek from mainland Greece came over and is now
making their usual shapes but using clay that
is found in Cypress or Rhodes or in Canaan. So what we’ve got, though,
these aren’t Vikings. These aren’t raiders. These are people moving
with all of their families because in that inscription
at Medinet Habu, we actually see, it’s kind of
hard to see on the left here. There’s a drawing of of
it up top at the right. They’re coming with
their families. They are migrating in
carts with the wives and the children and
all the household. So rather than Vikings,
think 1930s Dust Bowl. Think moving from Oklahoma
to Texas and California. And think of all
the Syrian refugees coming into Europe today. This is actually a
perfect parallel. So it may be that
their Sea Peoples and our refugees from
Syria are kind of parallel, though that might
be pushing it a bit. At any rate, what I
think is that these guys are as much victims as
they are oppressors. I think they are
suffering as well. And yet, still, people are
saying kind of a simplified, logical progression, that
maybe there was a drought. From that you had famine. From that, you got the
movement of the sea peoples. From that, you got havoc,
cutting of trade routes. And then you’ve got collapse.
Very linear, right? I think that’s too simple. It’s simple, it’s simplistic. I think it’s much, much messier. Things always are messier,
that’s just too easy. So what really happened? Well, if it’s not
just the Sea peoples, and I do think they are
kind of the bogeyman, right? That’s actually how I
scare my kids to go to, both to school and
to sleep, right? Either get to bed
or go to school or the Sea Peoples
are going to get you. But what else could
have happened? Well you know, the possibilities
that have been suggested, maybe there’s a drought,
maybe there’s famine, maybe there’s invaders,
maybe there are earthquakes. And to that my answer is yes. I think it’s all of the above. I think the answer is, you
know, five, all of the above. And in fact if we
take a quick look, and I don’t want to spend
all that long on it, though, I don’t know, I don’t have anything
else to do tonight. You guys want to stay? – Yeah.
– Yeah, okay. Well, what about drought? This is not actually
a new suggestion. Rhys Carpenter from Bryn
Mawr was already suggesting in the 1960s that
the Mycenaean world had come to an end
because of drought. But he didn’t have
the evidence for it. It was just a hypothesis. So over the decades, it
just kind of got forgotten. Well, guess what? We’ve got the data now. In the last four or five years, there have been a number
of different studies that have all come up
with evidence for drought. Kaniewski, a French
scholar, in 2011, he and his team
were at Tell Tweini over here in north Syria. And they did coring in
some of the dried-up lakes and lagoons and looked
at the pollen there. And they said there
is what they called a 300-year dry event, in
other words a drought, that went from the late
13th, early 12th centuries, all the way down
to the 9th century. So that’s exactly our
time when we’re collapsing and the dark ages that followed. So north Syria.
They came up with that. They then went over to Cyprus to Hala Sultan Tekke and
did it there as well. You can see coring
in the lagoon here. Published this in 2013. Same thing, a dry event
from 1200 to about 850 BC. So looking at the pollen, they’ve got the
evidence for the drought that Rhys Carpenter was unable
to come up with in the 1960s. And then Lee Drake,
Brandon Drake, in 2012 put together a
couple of other studies and looked at things ranging
from Greece to Israel to Cyprus and put together
three additional lines of evidence, including
one where there was a drop in the temperature
of the surface of the sea, which means you’re going
to get less rain on land. He said this all
starts somewhere between 1250 and 1197 BC. This article came out in the Journal of
Archaeological Science, and I liked it so much I
did something I rarely do. I wanted to send him
an email just to say how much I like this article,
which I don’t usually do. But I had no idea where
he was so I Googled him, and the very first
thing that came up said, “You are friends on Facebook.” (audience laughs) And I’m like, “I am?” And I got his email
address and I wrote to him and I said, “Great article! “Why do I know you?” And he said, “Eric, we
dug at Megiddo in 2006.” (audience laughs) Like, “Oh, Lee!” I said, “Wait, Lee, why did
you publish under Brandon?” He said, “Brandon’s
my scholarly name. “My friends call me Lee.” So I emailed him and said,
“Next time let me know.” So, be careful, you may
know people on Facebook that you don’t
actually know you know. (audience laughs) Anyway, the most recent has
been done by Dafna Langgut, who you see right down here, and Israel Finkelstein and
Thomas Litt from Germany. And they took the
same sort of thing. They did coring in the Dead
Sea and by the Sea of Galilee, and they were able to say that there was a drought
here as well, from 1250. But it only went
to about 1100 BC. It’s only about 150 years. So we’ve got evidence now for
a drought in northern Syria, Israel, Cyprus, and Greece
all at about the same time. So I think we now can say that there was drought back then and, yes, climate change, though I understand
that most of your people that do climate change
here are over in Paris at the Summit there. So tell them what
we’re saying here. But, yes, it looks like there
was climate change back then. But when this was all released, as each came out, the media
got ahold of it, right? So The New York Times, Pollen
Study Points to Drought as Culprit in
Bronze Age Mystery. And the LA Times, Climate
change may have caused demise of Late Bronze
Age civilizations. National Geographic got into it. Archaeology magazine
got into it. New York Post added in
globalization for good measure (audience laughs) And then, remember
the NASA-funded study which turned out not
to be funded by NASA? But that said that we were
going to all disintegrate in just a couple of decades? At that point I got fed up, and so I put an op-ed in the
Huffington Post and just again, from Facebook I said, “The
Collapse of Civilizations: “It’s Complicated,” and it is. But the question, alright,
so you’ve got drought but that doesn’t necessarily
mean you’ve got famine. And in fact, famine’s
very hard to find in the archaeological record unless you’ve got dead bodies
strewing the landscape. The one way you can figure out that you’ve got famine is
if they write about it. And, indeed, they do. Here we are at Ugarit,
and actually that circle should be up there. Never mind, there’s Ugarit
on the north Syrian coast. Remember that’s where the tin
was being exchanged earlier. So Ras Shamra, Ugarit, and here we’ve got
a number of archives from private merchants. Here is the House of Urtenu, and he talks about a
famine that’s ravaging the city of Emar in inland, where he has the branch
office over in Emar. He’s based Ugarit, but
there’s a branch office. “There is famine in our house,
we will all die of hunger. “If you don’t
quickly arrive here, “we ourselves will
die of hunger. “You will not see a living
soul from your land.” And then in Ugarit itself, the king is writing
to somebody else. He says, “Here with me,
plenty has become famine.” And even up in Turkey,
the Hittite king, “Do you not know that
there was a famine “in the midst of my lands? “It’s a matter of
life and death.” I think you’ll agree there’s
some famine going on here. They’re all writing about it. Yeah, but whatever, okay. Invaders? Yes. We’ve got evidence for that too. In fact, from Ugarit we
have a rather famous letter, “My son, now the ships
of the enemy have come. “They’ve been setting
fire to my cities “and have done harm to the land. “Doesn’t my father know
that all of my infantry “and chariotry are
stationed in Khatte?” So they’re up in Turkey, “And that all of my
ships are stationed “in the land of Lukka?” That will be Lycia, also
later Lycia in Turkey. “They’ve not arrived back yet. “Now, be aware, the
seven ships of the enemy “have been coming,
have done harm to us. “If any other ships are
coming, please tell me.” When I was both an undergraduate and in graduate school, this
was always held up to me as, “Ooh, this is it, this
is the Sea Peoples.” And it was being baked in a kiln before it was sent to
the King of Cyprus. But that the Sea
Peoples had come back and had burnt the city. And so it was still in the
kiln before it could be sent. Very dramatic picture, right? Well, as always, it’s
too good to be true. The re-analysis of the
whole thing has shown now that was not in a kiln, it was actually in a basket
up on the second floor. The whole basket fell with
about 70 tablets in it, landed upside down, and then
the basket disintegrated, leaving this dome shape,
and the tablet is in there. So it’s not in a kiln
it’s in a basket, and it’s probably actually a
copy of a letter that was sent. And so we don’t
actually know if this is from the 1177
destruction or the 1207. It could actually
be from either one, so it’s not quite the nice
landmark that we’ve got. But it is an example
that we’ve got invaders. And we’ve got another one too. This is one of the last
letters from Ugarit. “When your messenger arrived, “the army was already
humiliated, the city was sacked. “Our food in the
threshing floors was burnt “and the vineyards
were also destroyed. “Our city is sacked, may you
know it, may you know it.” So we know there are
invaders as well. Maybe they’re the Sea
Peoples, maybe not. And that’s actually
kind of a problem. When you see a destruction, you don’t always
know who did it. So Kaniewski, when he
was doing that coring at Tell Tweini and
published in 2011, he actually labeled things
Sea Peoples Destruction Layer. Well there’s not
actually anything there that tells him it’s Sea Peoples. There is later stuff perhaps that indicates says maybe
somebody settled down, but the destroyers and
the people who settle down aren’t always the same people. So, I think this
is a little hasty to say it’s Sea
Peoples destruction. And I give you Hazor in Israel, in Canaan as just one example. We know this city is
destroyed in the 13th or early 12th centuries. We can see it, this is
the Late Bronze Age palace that’s burnt to a crisp. All the mud bricks are
now burnt black and red. The problem is that we don’t
actually know who did it. Now there’s two co-directors, Amnon Ben-Tor and
Sharon Zuckerman, who actually just
recently passed away, and they couldn’t agree on
who destroyed their site. Amnon Ben-Tor said,
“Well it’s not Egyptians “because there are Egyptian
statues in the destruction “and they’re defaced,
so no Egyptians “would deface Egyptian
statues, so it can’t be them. “And it can’t be the Canaanites “because there are
also Canaanites statues “that are defaced and they
wouldn’t have done it.” So he’s left with
Israelites and Sea Peoples. And he says Hazor’s
too far inland so it can’t be Sea Peoples. Which, by the way
I disagree with. Sea Peoples get very far inland. But for him that left only
Joshua and the Israelites so he says, “Look,
Joshua conquered Hazor “just like the Bible said.” But Sharon said,
“Now wait a minute. “Hold on, hold on. “If you actually look at
the destruction of Hazor, “it’s the temples, a
couple of the temples, “and the palace
that are destroyed “but the domestic
areas are untouched.” She said, “This to me looks
like an internal rebellion “from the lower classes. “When the grain got
cut off or whatever,” she said, “This is your
rising up against the 1%.” So she says it’s an
internal rebellion. So the point here is
if the two co-directors of the site can’t figure out
who destroyed their site, how are we going to decide? So we know it’s destroyed
but we don’t know who did it. And in fact, it
might not be of who, it might be a what,
because we’ve got evidence for earthquakes back then. And in fact, if you take a look, this is Robert Drews’s
map from 1993 showing most of the sites that were
destroyed in our period. But if you overlay it
with a map of earthquakes that have taken place
just in the last century since about 1900, you can see that most of the
destroyed sites are in active seismic fault zones. In fact, you’ve got the
North Anatolian zone coming right across here. You’ve got others
coming down here. Of course you got the
great Rift Valley up here. There are earthquakes all
the time even now, right? The National Museum in
Athens got hit a while ago. The thing is here if you
look at the one in Anatolia, you know, there is something
that modern seismologists call an earthquake sequence, which is when you
have an earthquake and it doesn’t release
all of the pressure, you will then have another
earthquake right next to it or nearby sometime
soon thereafter. It could be days,
it could be weeks. It could be a year or two,
but you will have another one. And if that doesn’t
release all the pressure, you’re then going to
have another and another. And these sequences usually
last about 50 or 60 years until all the
pressure is released, and then builds up for
about another 400 years. So they’ve seen
this around today. And some like Amos
Nor of Stanford have applied it to antiquity where they’ve got
a much sexier name of earthquake storms
and it does look like we have one of these storms
from about 1225 to 1175 BC where we’ve got earthquakes
at most of these sites. So for example, at
Mycenae, you recognize the Lion Gate here and you
can see the Cyclopean masonry. And then you see this
rock face, the bedrock. Well, when some of the
seismologists visited Mycenae in about 1995 or 96,
they started laughing. And the archaeologists said,
“What are you laughing at?” And they said, “Well this,
this, this is one half “of an earthquake slip
zone, that’s one side of it. “That’s what an earthquake
zone looks like.” And they said, “Wait,
you mean the Mycenaeans “built their city right on
top of an active fault line?” They’re like, “Yeah.” And they’re like,
“Well, who would be “that stupid to do that?” (audience laughs) And Amos said, “Well, I
live in San Francisco.” (audience laughs) So Mycenae has seen lots
and lots of earthquakes and in fact, here is
one earthquake victim. This is the same victim here. And this is actually
Ione Mylonas is a very young lady excavating. And that stone that’s
right next to it was actually embedded
in the skull. This young lady is in the
basement of the house, sheltering in a doorway, which is normally the
safest place to shelter. But in this case the whole
thing came collapsing down and she was killed
by a falling rock. This dates to just
about our time period. Also at Tiryns, we’ve
got a woman and a child that are killed, buried
by the fallen walls. And over at Troy, we’ve got here in Troy VI that tilting wall. You can see it slightly better. This is when I was
there last August. That wall is not supposed
to tilt like that. That’s what happens when
you have an earthquake. Same thing Ugarit. Again, this wall is not
supposed to look like that. That’s what it looks
like after an earthquake. So the point is very simply, we’ve got a series
of earthquakes at
about this same time. And then those trade routes
that I was talking about are also going to be cut. And remember what I
said about their tin being the equivalent
of our oil today. If that tin is cut at any point, then you really can’t
make bronze anymore and then you’re in trouble. It may be that that’s
where they started using iron more
than they had been. Bear in mind, iron’s
already been around. I mean, King Tut’s got an
iron dagger in his tomb. But it was bronze that
was being used back then. Even in the Iron Age,
you’ve still got bronze, you just have more iron. So one of the suggestions
perhaps is that the cutting of these routes is
what led to that and helped contribute
to the collapse. So in terms of summing up,
let me give you three points that I think you
will all agree on and have no argument with. First of all, we’ve got a
number of separate civilizations that are flourishing
between the 15th and the 13th centuries
in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. And these include
Mycenaeans, Minoans, Hittites, Egyptians,
Babylonians, Assyrians, Canaanites,
and Cypriots. These are independent,
but they are interacting with each other,
especially through trade. Are we all agreed on that point? Pretty standard, okay. Point number two. It’s clear that many
cities were destroyed under the Late Bronze
Age civilizations, and life as they knew
it came to an end about 1177 or soon thereafter. We’re agreed on that, yes? And third, there is no
unequivocal proof as to who or what caused it, but it
did result in the collapse. Are we agreed on that as well? Yeah, okay, so where
does that leave us? Well, the scholarly
publications out there are still doing
the linear stuff. One leads to another,
leads to another. And again I say it was
much, much messier. So if you were to say to me, “Well, which one was it?
Was it a drought?” I would say, “Yes
it was a drought.” “Well, was it famine?”
Yeah, it was famine. Earthquakes? Yes.
Invaders? Yes. Rebellion? Yes.
I think it’s all of them. And in fact, I think
it’s a perfect storm, because I think you could
survive one of these. You might even survive two.
But three or more? I think you’re going
to be in real trouble. And so I think that’s what’s
going to be happening. When you’ve got
drought and famine and then you’re trying
to recover from that but then an earthquake hits,
you’re like, “Oh, my god!” And you throw up your hands,
“What am I going to do?” Well, that also results in what
we call a multiplier effect, where the, you know, the damage and all that gets worse
because you’re still recovering from something else. And this is also a fairly
complicated system, so that if something
happened, to say, to the Hittites, or the
Myceneans, or the Cypriots, it’s going to affect everybody
at some point in some way. It’s as if today
something happens, like a typhoon in Japan, and it affects the stock
market in New York. It’s the same sort of thing. So what we’re
actually looking at, to give it a name, is this
is a systems collapse, if we want to
describe it that way. This is not a new idea, I mean Colin Renfrew
was already talking about this back in about 1979. A systems collapse is when your central
administration collapses. It’s when the traditional
elite disappear. Your centralized
economy goes away. And you’ve got lots
of settlement shifts and population decline. So giving this a name, it
works with a systems collapse. The thing about a
systems collapse is it can take up to a
century to take place. So in fact, the title
1177 is misleading. It did not fall in that year, it took up to a century to fall. So the way I actually
phrase it in the book is that life in 1200
BC was quite different from the life in 1100,
and completely different from life in 1000 BC. But Rob told me
that wouldn’t fit on the cover of the book,
so he went for 1177. But it is, it takes
100 years or so. I’m saying not everything
falls at the same time, but there is a bit
of a domino effect. The thing is when you do get
a systems collapse like this, and we’ve got it elsewhere too, the Maya in the Indus
Valley at different points and different times,
you almost always get a lower level of socio-political
integration afterward. You’ve got a
development of myths about things that had taken
place in the golden age. Think Homer and the
Trojan War, for example, and you’ve got a dark
age that follows. So we fit the classic definition
of a systems collapse. So what’s to take away? What lessons can we
learn from all of this? Well, I would have
a question of you, Do you think we’re facing
a similar situation today that they were
facing back in 1177? Without pushing it too much, do we have somewhat of
a parallel situation? Well, do we have climate change? We could argue all
night about that, but I would say many
people would say yes. Famines and droughts going
on in the world these days? Yes. Any earthquakes around? Yeah. Rebellions? Sure. I think the only thing
missing are the Sea Peoples. (audience laughs) But actually somebody
did suggest way back when that it might be that ISIS
are actually the Sea Peoples. They’re busy destroying most
of the Near East, right? So I actually now
have a dilemma. Are the Sea Peoples ISIS, the people who are
destroying everything? Or are the Sea Peoples the
refugees running away from them? It depends on how you
see the Sea Peoples, if they’re the victims
or the oppressors. But I think either way, I would actually add the Sea
Peoples in to this equation. So, in fact, in the headlines
of the last couple of years that have been coming out
from the Mediterranean and the Middle East,
I took the liberty of ripping them out, so
Greece’s economy has tanked, in the last couple of years. Internal rebellions
have engulfed Libya,
Egypt, and Syria, with outsiders and foreign
warriors fanning the flames. Sound familiar? This is from the local newspaper
the last couple of years. Turkey fears it will become
involved, as does Israel. Jordan is crowded with refugees. Iran is bellicose
and threatening. Iraq is in turmoil.
Sound familiar? If we were to rip the headlines
from the Mediterranean and Middle East about 1200
BC, what would they read? Pretty much the same. (audience laughs) So one thing about history is we can learn a lot
from it if we want to. And the point that I
would simply make is that there was a fairly
globalized civilization that did collapse after 1200 BC, which has perhaps more
parallels to us today then you might have expected. Now, they collapsed and in fact, if you study your
history, you will know there is no civilization
in the history of the world that hasn’t collapsed. So why we should be
immune, I don’t know. I don’t think we will be. The question is: What’s it going to take and
when is it going to happen? There is a difference,
however, of course. We are more technologically
advanced, of course. We’re aware of what’s happening. I don’t think the Hittites were
aware of what was going on. Somebody on the
Internet once said, “Wait, there was climate
change back then? “What, the Hittites had SUVs?” No, the Hittites
did not have SUVs. Mother Nature can
do climate change. But the Hittites didn’t know how to deal with it. We on the other hand do,
so we’ve got a choice if we want to face
what’s happening and try and make a
difference or ignore it. And from my point of
view is what’s the harm if you try and to do
something about it. If nothing’s happening,
you haven’t done anything, but if it is happening
then you’re, you know, saving the planet. So I would look at the
collapse of 1177 BC and say it may hold
some lessons for us, more than we might suspect. And with that I thank you. (audience applauds)

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