argument top image

Who were the Sea People who attacked Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean during the Late Bronze Age Collapse? Show more Show less
Back to question

During the 12th Century BC sea-faring invaders contributed to what is known as the Late Bronze Age Collapse. Greece, Egypt, the Levant, and the Hittites were all impacted. Known in the Egyptian sources as a confederation of ethnic groups, the identity and origins of the Sea People is contested.

The Sea People were migrants fleeing famine. Show more Show less

Difficult climatic conditions and evidence of famine has led some scholars to argue that environmental pressures, particularly in Anatolia and the Levant, may have created the Sea People. Material culture and origin myths from Italy support this claim.
< (2 of 5) Next position >

The Teresh, Sherden, and Shekelesh fled Anatolian famine to live in Italy

Several myths claim Italy was settled by travelers from Asia Minor. Famine is the likely cause of the migration and is confirmed by multiple sources. These migrants may be the Sea People who attacked the Hittites, Egypt, the Levant, and Greece while on their way to Italy.
Ancient History

The Argument

One of the ethnic groups mentioned by the Egyptian records are the Teresh. "Teresh" is believed to be the Egyptian word for "Tyrrhenian", another name given to the Etruscans (named after their King Tyrrhenus). The Etruscans called themselves the Tyrsenoi. The Etruscans lived in ancient Italy, but it was claimed they were once pirates who had roots in Anatolia.[1] Herodotus claims the Etruscans were Lydians from Asia Minor who left due to famine and settled in Italy. Sources from the Late Bronze Age seem to confirm there was a famine in Anatolia during this period.[1] Based on etymology, two other groups among the Sea People can be connected with Italy. It is believed that "Sherden" may be the Egyptian word for the Sardinians and the ‘Shekelesh’ could be the ancient "Sicels" who settled in Sicily. [2] The horned helmets and round shields depicted in the Egyptian reliefs of the Sherden are found in Sardinian graves.[3] There is archaeological evidence for an Anatolian connection with Italy. Lugged axes, common in Asia Minor have be found all over the coast of Italy. The Populonia tombs in Etruria contains weapons from the region between the Caucus and the Caspian. A study of blood groups in Italy has also established a connection between the two regions. [1] Roman myths about their origins include the belief that Trojans from Asia Minor came to Italy. There appears to be a connection a link between ancient Italy and Asia Minor, probably caused by mass famine in this period. The Sea People were traveling to Italy when they attacked Anatolia, then Egypt, and finally Greece before settling in Italy.

Counter arguments

The Egyptian texts clearly state that many of the Sea People were settled in Egypt by the Pharaoh and therefore are unlikely to have ended up in Italy.[4] Although Herodotus does say that the Etruscans moved from Anatolia to Italy, the 12th century is too early to fit with his narrative. The Etruscans probably settled in the 8th-7th centuries BC, when the first artifacts which are distinctly Etruscan begin to appear. Although many scholars agree that the Sherden and Shekelesh were Sardinian and Sicilians they may have been natives rather than people who moved there. Alternatively, some scholars believe that the Sherden were from Sardis or Illyria. There is some genetic evidence of Balkans haplogroups represented in Sardinian DNA. Many scholars also argue for Illyrian/Balkan origins for the Sicels, whose material culture can be found in the Balkans. Herodotus gives the Sicels a Scythian origin story.[5]Traces of Anatolian artifacts in Italy may be from trade only. Herodotus is not a reliable source. Herodotus’ view that the Etruscans were from Anatolia was already contested in antiquity by Dionysius of Halicarnassus who believed they were native Italians. The majority of scholars who study the Etruscans believe they came from an early wave of Latin, Umbrian and Oscan migrants to the Italian peninsula, which accounts for the similarities in their customs. The Etruscan language is of uncertain origin but the alphabet is similar to Greek.[6] People who believe they are from Asia Minor make up a fringe minority, who are often not Etruscan scholars.[7] There are many explanations for the origins of the Etruscans, some of which better fit the timeline and the archaeology we have.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] The Teresh, Sherden, and Shekelesh can all be identified as groups living in Italy through both archaeological finds and the etymological similarities in their names. [P2] The Etruscans are rumored to have left Anatolia due to severe famines. [P3] The Romans held that Italy was colonized by Trojans from Asia Minor. [C] The Sea people were Anatolian refugees who settled in Italy.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] The Etruscans probably left Anatolia much later than the Bronze Age Collapse, if they left at all.

References

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3642340?Search=yes&resultItemClick=true&searchText=The+Teresh%2C+the+Etruscans+and+Asia+Minor&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3DThe%2BTeresh%252C%2Bthe%2BEtruscans%2Band%2BAsia%2BMinor%26acc%3Don%26wc%3Don%26fc%3Doff%26group%3Dnone&ab_segments=0%2Fbasic_search_SYC-5462%2Ftest&refreqid=fastly-default%3A509d234b9dde38358e85723a3a46ba72&seq=2#metadata_info_tab_contents
  2. https://www.cogniarchae.com/2018/06/30/origins-of-the-sea-peoples-the-sherden-the-shekelesh-the-peleset/
  3. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=n1TmVvMwmo4C&pg=PA368&lpg=PA368&dq=sherden+sicily+horned+helmets&source=bl&ots=f3UIZC6lhB&sig=ACfU3U3YJQRLMhbcjjucbgLlygqdxN23yQ&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=sherden%20sicily%20horned%20helmets&f=false
  4. https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/1177_B_C.html?id=39qIngEACAAJ&redir_esc=y
  5. https://www.cogniarchae.com/2018/06/30/origins-of-the-sea-peoples-the-sherden-the-shekelesh-the-peleset/
  6. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Etruscan-language
  7. https://www.academia.edu/7287651/The_Ethnicity_of_the_Sea_Peoples_dissertation_
This page was last edited on Wednesday, 4 Nov 2020 at 08:47 UTC

Explore related arguments