Bronze Age collapse

Bronze Age collapse

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The Bronze Age collapse is a transition in southwestern Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean
Eastern Mediterranean
The Eastern Mediterranean is a term that denotes the countries geographically to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. This region is also known as Greater Syria or the Levant....

 from the Late Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 to the Early Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 that some historians believe was violent, sudden and culturally disruptive. The palace economies
Palace economy
A palace economy or redistribution economy is a system of economic organisation in which a substantial share of the wealth flows into the control of a centralized administration, the palace, and out from there to the general population, which may be allowed its own sources of income but relies...

 of the Aegean
Aegean Region
Aegean Region , is one of the 7 census-defined regions of Turkey, and in Western Asia.It is located in the west part of the country: bounded by Aegean Sea on the west; Marmara Region on the north;...

 and Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 which characterised the Late Bronze Age were replaced, after a hiatus, by the isolated village cultures of the Ancient Dark Age
Greek Dark Ages
The Greek Dark Age or Ages also known as Geometric or Homeric Age are terms which have regularly been used to refer to the period of Greek history from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean Palatial civilization around 1200 BC, to the first signs of the Greek city-states in the 9th...

.

Between 1206 and 1150 BCE, the cultural collapse of the Mycenaean kingdoms
Mycenaean Greece
Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of Bronze Age Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in northeastern Argolis, in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites...

, the Hittite Empire
Hittites
The Hittites were a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia c. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height c...

 in Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 and Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, and the Egyptian Empire
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 in Syria and Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 interrupted trade route
Trade route
A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. Allowing goods to reach distant markets, a single trade route contains long distance arteries which may further be connected to several smaller networks of commercial...

s and severely reduced literacy. In the first phase of this period, almost every city between Troy
Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

 and Gaza
Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

 was violently destroyed, and often left unoccupied thereafter: examples include Hattusa
Hattusa
Hattusa was the capital of the Hittite Empire in the late Bronze Age. It was located near modern Boğazkale, Turkey, within the great loop of the Kızıl River ....

, Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

, Ugarit
Ugarit
Ugarit was an ancient port city in the eastern Mediterranean at the Ras Shamra headland near Latakia, Syria. It is located near Minet el-Beida in northern Syria. It is some seven miles north of Laodicea ad Mare and approximately fifty miles east of Cyprus...

.

The gradual end of the Dark Age that ensued saw the rise of settled Neo-Hittite
Syro-Hittite states
The states that are called Neo-Hittite, or more recently Syro-Hittite, were Luwian, Aramaic and Phoenician-speaking political entities of the Iron Age northern Syria and southern Anatolia that arose following the collapse of the Hittite Empire around 1180 BC and lasted until roughly 700 BC...

 Aramaean
Aramaeans
The Aramaeans, also Arameans , were a Northwest Semitic semi-nomadic and pastoralist people who originated in what is now modern Syria during the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age...

 kingdoms of the mid-10th century BCE and the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

Anatolia



Every important Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

n site during the preceding Late Bronze Age shows a destruction layer
Destruction layer
A destruction layer is a stratum found in the excavation of an archaeological site showing evidence of the hiding and burial of valuables, the presence of widespread fire, mass murder, unburied corpses, loose weapons in public places, or other evidence of destruction, either by natural causes , or...

, and it appears that here civilization did not recover to the same level as that of the Hittites
Hittites
The Hittites were a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia c. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height c...

 for another thousand years. Hattusa
Hattusa
Hattusa was the capital of the Hittite Empire in the late Bronze Age. It was located near modern Boğazkale, Turkey, within the great loop of the Kızıl River ....

s, the Hittite capital, was burned and abandoned, and never reoccupied. Karaoğlan was burned and the corpses left unburied. Troy
Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

 was destroyed at least twice, before being abandoned until Roman times.

Cyprus


The catastrophe separates Late Cypriot II
Prehistoric Cyprus
The Prehistoric Period is the oldest part of Cypriot history.This article covers the period 10,000 to 800 BC and ends immediately before written records of civilizations, such as the first mention of Cyprus by the Romans.-Epipalaeolithic:...

 (LCII) from the LCIII period, with the sacking and burning of the sites of Enkomi
Enkomi
This article is about the town and ancient settlement near Famagusta. For the suburb of Nicosia , see: Engomi.Enkomi is a village near Famagusta on Cyprus. It is the site of an important Bronze Age city, possibly the capital of Alasiya...

, Kition, and Sinda
Sinda
Sinda may refer to:*Anapa, Russia*Sinda, Tibet, China*A town in ancient Pisidia possibly identifiable as Korkuteli*Sinta, Cyprus*Singapore Indian Development Association...

, may have occurred twice, before being abandoned. During the reign of the Hittite
Hittites
The Hittites were a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia c. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height c...

 king, Tudhaliya IV
Tudhaliya IV
Tudhaliya IV was a king of the Hittite Empire , and the younger son of Hattusili III. He reigned ca. 1237 BCE–1209 BCE. His mother was called Puduhepa...

, the island was briefly invaded by the Hittites for either reasons of securing the copper resource or as a way of preventing piracy. Shortly afterwards the island was reconquered by his son around 1200 BCE. Some towns (Enkomi, Kition, Palaeokastro and Sinda) show traces of destruction at the end of LC IIC. Whether or not this is really an indication of a Mycenean invasion is contested. Originally, two waves of destruction, ca. 1230 BCE by the Sea Peoples
Sea Peoples
The Sea Peoples were a confederacy of seafaring raiders of the second millennium BC who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean, caused political unrest, and attempted to enter or control Egyptian territory during the late 19th dynasty and especially during year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty...

 and ca. 1190 BCE by Aegean
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

 refugees  have been proposed. The smaller settlements Ayios Dhimitrios and Kokkinokremnos
Kokkinokremnos
Kokkinokremnos was a late Bronze Age settlement on Cyprus, abandoned after a brief occupation. The causes for its abandonmenment are disputed; although it occurred during the general decline of civilisation at the time, there are no distinctive traces of destruction...

 and a number of other sites were abandoned but do not show traces of destruction. Kokkinokremos was a short-lived settlement, where various caches concealed by smiths have been found. That none ever returned to reclaim the treasures suggests they were killed or enslaved.

Syria


Syrian sites previously showed evidence of trade links with Egypt and the Aegean in the Late Bronze Age. Evidence at Ugarit
Ugarit
Ugarit was an ancient port city in the eastern Mediterranean at the Ras Shamra headland near Latakia, Syria. It is located near Minet el-Beida in northern Syria. It is some seven miles north of Laodicea ad Mare and approximately fifty miles east of Cyprus...

 shows that the destruction there occurred after the reign of Merenptah, and even the fall of Chancellor Bay
Chancellor Bay
Chancellor Bay was an important Asiatic official in ancient Egypt, who rose to prominence and high office under Seti II Userkheperure Setepenre and later became an influential powerbroker in the closing stages of the 19th Dynasty. He is generally identified with Irsu Chancellor Bay (died 1192 BC)...

. The last Bronze Age king of Ugarit, Ammurapi
Ammurapi
Ammurapi was the last Bronze Age ruler and king of the Ancient Syrian city of Ugarit, from ca. 1215 to 1180 BC. Ammurapi was a contemporary of the Hittite King Suppiluliuma II. He wrote a vivid letter in response to a plea for assistance from the king of Alashiya which has been preserved...

, was a contemporary of the Hittite
Hittites
The Hittites were a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia c. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height c...

 king Suppiluliuma II
Suppiluliuma II
Suppiluliuma II, the son of Tudhaliya IV, was the last known king of the New Kingdom of the Hittite Empire, ruling ca. 1207–1178 BC , contemporary with Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria....

. The exact dates of his reign are unknown. However, a letter by the king is preserved on one of the clay tablets found baked in the conflagration of the destruction of the city. Ammurapi stresses the seriousness of the crisis faced by many Near Eastern states from invasion by the advancing Sea Peoples in a dramatic response to a plea for assistance from the king of Alasiya. Ammurapi highlights the desperate situation Ugarit faced in letter RS 18.147:

My father, behold, the enemy's ships came (here); my cities(?) were burned, and they did evil things in my country. Does not my father know that all my troops and chariots(?) are in the Land of Hatti, and all my ships are in the Land of Lukka?...Thus, the country is abandoned to itself. May my father know it: the seven ships of the enemy that came here inflicted much damage upon us.


Unfortunately for Ugarit, no help arrived and Ugarit was burned to the ground at the end of the Bronze Age. Its destruction levels contained Late Helladic IIIB ware, but no LH IIIC (see Mycenaean period). Therefore, the date of the destruction is important for the dating of the LH IIIC phase. Since an Egyptian sword bearing the name of pharaoh Merneptah
Merneptah
Merneptah was the fourth ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He ruled Egypt for almost ten years between late July or early August 1213 and May 2, 1203 BC, according to contemporary historical records...

 was found in the destruction levels, 1190 BCE was taken as the date for the beginning of the LH IIIC. A cuneiform tablet found in 1986 shows that Ugarit was destroyed after the death of Merneptah. It is generally agreed that Ugarit had already been destroyed by the 8th year of Ramesses III
Ramesses III
Usimare Ramesses III was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty and is considered to be the last great New Kingdom king to wield any substantial authority over Egypt. He was the son of Setnakhte and Queen Tiy-Merenese. Ramesses III is believed to have reigned from March 1186 to April 1155 BCE...

—i. e. 1178 BCE. These letters on clay tablets found baked in the conflagration of the destruction of the city speak of attack from the sea, and a letter from Alashiya
Alashiya
Alashiya or Alasiya was a state which existed in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, and was situated somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was a major source of goods, especially copper, for Ancient Egypt and other states in the Ancient Near East. It is referred to in a number of the surviving...

 (Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

) speaks of cities already being destroyed from attackers who came by sea. It also speaks of the Ugarit fleet being absent, patrolling the Lycian
Lycian
Lycian may refer to:* Anything related to Lycia* Apollo Lyceus, a type of ancient Greek statuary* Lycian language, the language of Lycia* Lycian script, the writing system of Lycian language* Lycian Way, a footpath in Turkey...

 coast.

Levant


Egyptian evidence shows that from the reign of Horemheb
Horemheb
Horemheb was the last Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty from either 1319 BC to late 1292 BC, or 1306 to late 1292 BC although he was not related to the preceding royal family and is believed to have been of common birth.Before he became pharaoh, Horemheb was the commander in chief...

, wandering Shasu
Shasu
Shasu is an Egyptian word for pastoral nomads who appeared in the Levant and Arabia from the fifteenth century BCE all the way to the Third Intermediate Period. The name evolved from a transliteration of the Egyptian word š3sw, meaning "those who move on foot", into the term for Bedouin-type...

 were more problematic. Ramesses II
Ramesses II
Ramesses II , referred to as Ramesses the Great, was the third Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth dynasty. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire...

 campaigned against them, pursuing them as far as Moab
Moab
Moab is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in Jordan. The land lies alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The existence of the Kingdom of Moab is attested to by numerous archeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over...

, where he established a fortress, after the near collapse at the Battle of Kadesh
Battle of Kadesh
The Battle of Kadesh took place between the forces of the Egyptian Empire under Ramesses II and the Hittite Empire under Muwatalli II at the city of Kadesh on the Orontes River, in what is now the Syrian Arab Republic....

. During the reign of Merneptah
Merneptah
Merneptah was the fourth ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He ruled Egypt for almost ten years between late July or early August 1213 and May 2, 1203 BC, according to contemporary historical records...

, the Shasu
Shasu
Shasu is an Egyptian word for pastoral nomads who appeared in the Levant and Arabia from the fifteenth century BCE all the way to the Third Intermediate Period. The name evolved from a transliteration of the Egyptian word š3sw, meaning "those who move on foot", into the term for Bedouin-type...

 threatened the "Way of Horus
Via Maris
Via Maris is the modern name for an ancient trade route, dating from the early Bronze Age, linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia — modern day Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria....

" north from Gaza. Evidence shows that Deir Alla (Succoth
Sukkot (place)
The name Sukkot appears in a number of places in the Hebrew Bible as a location:* An Egyptian Sukkot is the second of the stations of the Exodus. Pharaoh orders the Israelites to leave Egypt, and they journey from their starting point at Rameses to Succoth...

) was destroyed after the reign of Queen Twosret
Twosret
Queen Twosret was the last known ruler and the final Pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty.She is recorded in Manetho's Epitome as a certain Thuoris, who in Homer is called Polybus, husband of Alcandara, and in whose time Troy was taken. She was said to have ruled Egypt for seven years, but this...

. The destroyed site of Lachish
Lachish
Lachish was an ancient Near East town located at the site of modern Tell ed-Duweir in the Shephelah, a region between Mount Hebron and the maritime plain of Philistia . The town was first mentioned in the Amarna letters as Lakisha-Lakiša...

 was briefly reoccupied by squatters and an Egyptian garrison, during the reign of Ramesses III
Ramesses III
Usimare Ramesses III was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty and is considered to be the last great New Kingdom king to wield any substantial authority over Egypt. He was the son of Setnakhte and Queen Tiy-Merenese. Ramesses III is believed to have reigned from March 1186 to April 1155 BCE...

. All centres along a coastal route from Gaza
Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

 northward were destroyed, and evidence shows Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon
Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

, Akko
Acre, Israel
Acre , is a city in the Western Galilee region of northern Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the country....

, and Jaffa
Jaffa
Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...

 were burned and not reoccupied for up to thirty years. Inland Hazor, Bethel
Bethel
Bethel was a border city described in the Hebrew Bible as being located between Benjamin and Ephraim...

, Beit Shemesh, Eglon
Eglon, Canaan
Eglon was a Canaanite city, whose king Debir joined a confederacy against Gibeon when that city made peace with Israel. The five kings involved were slain and Eglon was later conquered and its inhabitants condemned to destruction. It was thereafter included in the territory of the Tribe of Judah....

, Debir
Debir
A Biblical word, debir may refer to:noun* The debir , the inner-most part of the Holy of Holies in Solomon's Temple.Personal name...

, and other sites were destroyed. Refugees escaping the collapse of coastal centres may have fused with incoming nomadic and Anatolian elements to begin the growth of terraced hillside hamlets in the highlands region, that was associated with the later development of the Hebrews
Hebrews
Hebrews is an ethnonym used in the Hebrew Bible...

.

Greece


None of the Mycenaean palaces of the Late Bronze Age survived, with destruction being heaviest at palaces and fortified sites. Up to 90% of small sites in the Peloponnese were abandoned, suggesting a major depopulation. The End Bronze Age collapse marked the start of what has been called the Greek Dark Ages
Greek Dark Ages
The Greek Dark Age or Ages also known as Geometric or Homeric Age are terms which have regularly been used to refer to the period of Greek history from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean Palatial civilization around 1200 BC, to the first signs of the Greek city-states in the 9th...

, which lasted for more than 400 years. Other cities, like Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, continued to be occupied, but with a more local sphere of influence, limited evidence of trade and an impoverished culture, from which it took centuries to recover.

Mesopotamia


The cities of Norsuntepe, Emar
Emar
Emar was an ancient Amorite city on the great bend in the mid-Euphrates in northeastern Syria, now on the shoreline of the man-made Lake Assad. It has been the source of many cuneiform tablets, making it rank with Ugarit, Mari and Ebla among the most important archeological sites of Syria...

 and Carchemish
Carchemish
Carchemish or Kargamış was an important ancient city of the Mitanni, Hittite and Neo Assyrian Empires, now on the frontier between Turkey and Syria. It was the location of an important battle between the Babylonians and Egyptians, mentioned in the Bible...

 were destroyed, Assyria lost northwestern cities to Mushki
Mushki
The Mushki were an Iron Age people of Anatolia, known from Assyrian sources. They do not appear in Hittite records. Several authors have connected them with the Moschoi of Greek sources and the Georgian tribe of the Meskhi. Josephus Flavius identified the Moschoi with the Biblical Meshech...

, which were reconquered by Tiglath-Pileser I
Tiglath-Pileser I
Tiglath-Pileser I was a king of Assyria during the Middle Assyrian period . According to Georges Roux, Tiglath-Pileser was "one of the two or three great Assyrian monarchs since the days of Shamshi-Adad I"...

 after his ascension to kingship. With the spread of Ahhlamu, or Aramaeans
Aramaeans
The Aramaeans, also Arameans , were a Northwest Semitic semi-nomadic and pastoralist people who originated in what is now modern Syria during the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age...

, control of the Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

n and Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

n regions extended barely beyond the city limits. Babylon was sacked by the Elam
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

ites under Shutruk-Nahhunte, and lost control of the Diyala valley.

Egypt



After apparently surviving for a while, the Egyptian Empire collapsed in the mid twelfth century BCE (during the reign of Ramesses VI
Ramesses VI
Ramesses VI was the fifth ruler of the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt who reigned from 1145 BC to 1137 BC and a son of Ramesses III by Iset Ta-Hemdjert...

). Previously the Merneptah Stele
Merneptah Stele
The Merneptah Stele — also known as the Israel Stele or Victory Stele of Merneptah — is an inscription by the Ancient Egyptian king Merneptah , which appears on the reverse side of a granite stele erected by the king Amenhotep III...

 spoke of attacks from Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

ns, with associated people of Ekwesh, Shekelesh
Sea Peoples
The Sea Peoples were a confederacy of seafaring raiders of the second millennium BC who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean, caused political unrest, and attempted to enter or control Egyptian territory during the late 19th dynasty and especially during year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty...

, Lukka, Shardana and Tursha or Teresh, and a Canaanite revolt, in the cities of Ashkelon
Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

, Yenoam and the people of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. A second attack during the reign of Ramesses III
Ramesses III
Usimare Ramesses III was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty and is considered to be the last great New Kingdom king to wield any substantial authority over Egypt. He was the son of Setnakhte and Queen Tiy-Merenese. Ramesses III is believed to have reigned from March 1186 to April 1155 BCE...

 involved Peleset
Philistines
Philistines , Pleshet or Peleset, were a people who occupied the southern coast of Canaan at the beginning of the Iron Age . According to the Bible, they ruled the five city-states of Gaza, Askelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath, from the Wadi Gaza in the south to the Yarqon River in the north, but with...

, Tjeker
Tjeker
The Tjekker or Tjeker were one of the Sea Peoples and are known mainly from the Story of Wenamun. The name tkr/skl has been transliterated variously as Tjekru, Tjekker, skl, Sikil, Djekker, etc. and they are thought to be the people who developed the port of Dor during the 12th century BCE from a...

, Shardana and Denyen
Denyen
The Denyen are one of the groups constituting the Sea Peoples, who were of Indo-European origin.-Origin:Archeologists have described them as being of Indo-European origin....

.

Conclusion


Robert Drews describes the collapse as "the worst disaster in ancient history, even more calamitous than the collapse of the Western Roman Empire". A number of people have spoken of the cultural memories of the disaster as stories of a "lost golden age
Golden Age
The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five Ages of Man, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages, and then the present, a period of decline...

". Hesiod
Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

 for example spoke of Ages of Gold, Silver and Bronze, separated from the modern harsh cruel world of the Age of Iron by the Age of Heroes.

Possible causes of collapse


As part of the Late Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

-Early Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 Dark Ages, it was a period associated with the collapse of central authorities, a general depopulation, particularly of highly urban areas, the loss of literacy in Anatolia and the Aegean, and its restriction elsewhere, the disappearance of established patterns of long-distance international trade, increasingly vicious intra-elite struggles for power, and reduced options for the elite if not for the general mass of population.

There are various theories put forward to explain the situation of collapse, many of them compatible with each other.

Volcanoes


The Hekla 3 eruption
Hekla 3 eruption
The Hekla 3 eruption circa 1000 BC is considered the most severe eruption of Hekla during the Holocene. It threw about 7.3 km3 of volcanic rock into the atmosphere, placing its Volcanic Explosivity Index at 5...

 approximately coincides with this period and, while the exact date is under considerable dispute, has been specifically dated to 1159 BCE by Egyptologists.

Earthquakes


Amos Nur, a professor of Geophysics at Stanford University, postulates that earthquakes tend to occur in "sequences" or "storms
Earthquake storm
An earthquake storm is a recently proposed theory about earthquakes, where one triggers a series of other large earthquakes—along the same plate boundary—as the stress transfers along the fault system. This is similar to the idea of aftershocks, with the exception that they take place...

" where a major earthquake above 6.5 on the Richter magnitude scale
Richter magnitude scale
The expression Richter magnitude scale refers to a number of ways to assign a single number to quantify the energy contained in an earthquake....

 can in later months or years set off second or subsequent earthquakes along the weakened fault line. He shows that when a map of earthquake occurrence is superimposed on a map of the sites destroyed in the Late Bronze Age, there is a very close correspondence.

Migrations and raids



Ekrem Akurgal
Ekrem Akurgal
Ekrem Akurgal was a Turkish archaeologist. During a career that spanned more than fifty years, he conducted definitive research in several sites along the western coast of Anatolia such as Phokaia , Pitane , Erythrai and old Smyrna Ekrem Akurgal (March 30, 1911 – November 1, 2002) was a ...

, Gustav Lehmann and Fritz Schachermeyer - following the views of Gaston Maspero
Gaston Maspero
Gaston Camille Charles Maspero was a French Egyptologist.-Life:Gaston Maspero was born in Paris to parents of Lombard origin. While at school he showed a special taste for history, and by the age of fourteen he was already interested in hieroglyphic writing...

 - have argued for this view.

Evidence includes the widespread findings of Naue II-type swords (coming from South-Eastern Europe) throughout the region, and Egyptian records of invading "northerners from all the lands".
The Ugarit
Ugarit
Ugarit was an ancient port city in the eastern Mediterranean at the Ras Shamra headland near Latakia, Syria. It is located near Minet el-Beida in northern Syria. It is some seven miles north of Laodicea ad Mare and approximately fifty miles east of Cyprus...

 correspondence at the time mentions invasions by tribes of such as the mysterious Sea Peoples
Sea Peoples
The Sea Peoples were a confederacy of seafaring raiders of the second millennium BC who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean, caused political unrest, and attempted to enter or control Egyptian territory during the late 19th dynasty and especially during year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty...

. Equally, the last Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 documents in the Aegean (dating to just before the collapse) reported a large rise in piracy, slave raiding and other attacks, particularly around Anatolia. Later fortresses along the Libyan coast, constructed and maintained by the Egyptians after the reign of Ramesses II
Ramesses II
Ramesses II , referred to as Ramesses the Great, was the third Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth dynasty. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire...

, were built to reduce raiding.

This theory is strengthened by the fact that the collapse coincides with the appearance in the region of many new ethnic groups. Indo-European
Indo-European
Indo-European may refer to:* Indo-European languages** Aryan race, a 19th century and early 20th century term for those peoples who are the native speakers of Indo-European languages...

 tribes such as the Phrygians, Thracians
Thracians
The ancient Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting areas including Thrace in Southeastern Europe. They spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family...

, Proto-Armenians, Macedonians
Ancient Macedonians
The Macedonians originated from inhabitants of the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, in the alluvial plain around the rivers Haliacmon and lower Axios...

 and Dorian Greeks
Dorian invasion
The Dorian invasion is a concept devised by historians of Ancient Greece to explain the replacement of pre-classical dialects and traditions in southern Greece by the ones that prevailed in Classical Greece...

 seem to have arrived at this time - possibly from the north. There also seems to have been widespread migration of the Aramaeans
Aramaeans
The Aramaeans, also Arameans , were a Northwest Semitic semi-nomadic and pastoralist people who originated in what is now modern Syria during the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age...

 - possibly from the South-East.

Ultimate reasons for these migrations could include drought, developments in warfare/weaponry, earthquakes or other natural disasters, meaning that the Migrations theory is not necessarily incompatible with the other theories mentioned here.

Ironworking


The Bronze Age collapse may be seen in the context of a technological history that saw the slow, comparatively continuous spread of iron-working technology in the region, beginning with precocious iron-working in what is now Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 and Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 in the 13th and 12th centuries BCE.
Leonard R. Palmer suggested that iron, whilst inferior to bronze weapons, was in more plentiful supply and so allowed larger armies of iron users to overwhelm the smaller armies of bronze-using maryannu
Maryannu
Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility which dominated many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age.The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi...

 chariot
Chariot
The chariot is a type of horse carriage used in both peace and war as the chief vehicle of many ancient peoples. Ox carts, proto-chariots, were built by the Proto-Indo-Europeans and also built in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC. The original horse chariot was a fast, light, open, two wheeled...

ry. This argument has been weakened of late with the finding that the shift to iron occurred after the collapse, not before. It now seems that the disruption of long distance trade, an aspect of "systems collapse", cut easy supplies of tin, making bronze impossible to make. Older implements were recycled and then iron substitutes were used.

Drought


Harvey Weiss
Harvey Weiss
Harvey Weiss is an archaeologist, famous for the discovery of Tell Leilan, and who teaches at Yale University as well as directing the excavations and surveys at Tell Leilan, Syria, during the summers...

, professor of Near Eastern archeology at Yale, using the Palmer Drought Index
Palmer Drought Index
The Palmer Drought Index, sometimes called the Palmer Drought Severity Index and often abbreviated PDSI, is a measurement of dryness based on recent precipitation and temperature. It was developed by meteorologist Wayne Palmer, who first published his method in the 1965 paper Meteorological Drought...

 for 35 Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern weather stations, showed that a drought of the kinds that persisted from January 1972 would have affected all of the sites associated with the Late Bronze Age collapse. Drought could have easily precipitated or hastened socio-economic problems and led to wars. More recently Brian Fagan has shown how the diversion of mid-winter storms, from the Atlantic to north of the Pyrenees and the Alps, bringing wetter conditions to Central Europe but drought to the Eastern Mediterranean, was associated with the Late Bronze Age collapse.

Changes in warfare


Robert Drews argues that the appearance of massed infantry, using newly developed weapons and armor, such as cast rather than forged spearheads and long swords
Sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

, a revolutionizing cut-and-thrust weapon, and javelin
Javelin
A Javelin is a light spear intended for throwing. It is commonly known from the modern athletic discipline, the Javelin throw.Javelin may also refer to:-Aviation:* ATG Javelin, an American-Israeli civil jet aircraft, under development...

s, and the appearance of bronze foundries, suggest "that mass production of bronze artifacts was suddenly important in the Aegean". (For example, Homer uses "spears" as a virtual synonym
Synecdoche
Synecdoche , meaning "simultaneous understanding") is a figure of speech in which a term is used in one of the following ways:* Part of something is used to refer to the whole thing , or...

 for "warriors", laying the groundwork for profane jokes throughout the ages.) Such new weaponry, furnished to a proto-hoplite
Hoplite
A hoplite was a citizen-soldier of the Ancient Greek city-states. Hoplites were primarily armed as spearmen and fought in a phalanx formation. The word "hoplite" derives from "hoplon" , the type of the shield used by the soldiers, although, as a word, "hopla" could also denote weapons held or even...

 model of infantry which was able to withstand attacks of massed chariotry, would destabilize states that were based upon the use of chariots by the ruling class and precipitate an abrupt social collapse as raiders and/or infantry mercenaries began to conquer, loot, and burn the cities.

General systems collapse



A general systems collapse has been put forward as an explanation for the reversals in culture that occurred between the Urnfield culture
Urnfield culture
The Urnfield culture was a late Bronze Age culture of central Europe. The name comes from the custom of cremating the dead and placing their ashes in urns which were then buried in fields...

 of the 12-13th centuries BCE and the rise of the Celtic Hallstatt culture
Hallstatt culture
The Hallstatt culture was the predominant Central European culture from the 8th to 6th centuries BC , developing out of the Urnfield culture of the 12th century BC and followed in much of Central Europe by the La Tène culture.By the 6th century BC, the Hallstatt culture extended for some...

 in the 9th and 10th centuries. This theory may, however, simply raise the question of whether this collapse was the cause of, or the effect of, the Bronze Age collapse being discussed. General Systems Collapse theory, pioneered by Joseph Tainter
Joseph Tainter
Joseph A. Tainter is a U.S. anthropologist and historian.Tainter studied anthropology at the University of California and Northwestern University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1975. He is currently a professor in the Department of Environment and Society at Utah State University...

, hypothesizes how social declines in response to complexity may lead to a collapse resulting in simpler forms of society.

In the specific context of the Middle East, a variety of factors — including population growth, soil degradation, drought, cast bronze weapon and iron production technologies — could have combined to push the relative price of weaponry (compared to arable land) to a level unsustainable for traditional warrior aristocracies. In complex societies which were increasingly fragile and less resilient, this combination of factors may have contributed to the collapse.

"The growing complexity and specialization of the Late Bronze Age political, economic, and social organization in Carol Thomas and Craig Conant's phrase, is a weakness that could explain such a widespread collapse that was able to render the Bronze Age civilizations incapable of recovery. The critical flaws of the Late Bronze Age are its centralization, specialization, complexity and top-heavy political structure. These flaws then revealed themselves through socio-political factors (revolt of peasantry and defection of mercenaries), fragility of all kingdoms (Mycenaean, Hittite, Ugaritic and Egyptian), demographic crises (overpopulation), and wars between states. Other factors which could have placed increasing pressure on the fragile kingdoms include piratical disturbances of maritime trade by the Sea Peoples, drought, crop failures, famine, Dorian migration or invasion.

See also