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 >

Scientific and written evidence proves there was severe drought and famine

There is an increasingly large body of evidence that the Late Bronze Age was unusually hot and dry. Written evidence from Anatolia and the Levant suggests severe food shortages. The Sea People were likely migrants fleeing famine.
Ancient History

The Argument

A letter to Ramses II from the Hittite Queen in the mid-13th century BCE states that there is no grain in the Hittite lands and asks that grain be sent from Egypt. Later letters make similar claims. Inscriptions in Egypt confirm that Egypt sent relief shipments of grain to Anatolia. A later letter, found in Ugarit in Syria, from a Hittite King claims that it is urgent that barley is sent and that it is “a matter of life or death”. Ugarit itself was also affected, and there are records of grain sent from Egypt to relieve famine in Syria.[1] A wealth of scientific evidence has backed up evidence of famine in this period. Pollen samples taken from Syria and Cyprus show unusually hot dry weather at the end of the Bronze Age. Oxygen-Isotope data taken from a cave in Israel shows a low level of annual precipitation at the end of the Bronze age. [2]Sediment cores taken from the Mediterranean show low surface sea temperatures, which indicates that the air temperature got warmer.[3] There is considerable data to suggest that a long period of high temperatures brought drought to the Aegean region. Contemporary texts confirm that harsh weather particularly affected Anatolia and the Levant, who experienced severe famine. The Sea People were likely migrating to escape famine.

Counter arguments

Claims of widespread famine have been exaggerated. Some of the letters used as evidence of famine are most likely reporting normal trade. Some of the earlier letters do not explain the destruction which occurred almost a century later, the famine would have to have been very long.[4] If the vast majority of the migrants were fleeing Anatolia because of famine, this does not explain the violent destruction in the region. Many of the cities which disappear in this period in the region have arrowheads in the walls and bodies in the streets and were evidentially destroyed by violent invasions. It is highly unlikely that fleeing migrants would have destroyed their own country.[5] Rumors of famine are vastly exaggerated and do not explain the violence across Anatolia and the Levant.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] Written evidence shows Anatolia and the Levant were suffering from serious famine at the end of the Late Bronze Age. [P2] Scientific evidence confirms a hotter, drier climate. [C] Famine led to mass migrations and created the Sea People.

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/1177_B_C.html?id=39qIngEACAAJ&redir_esc=y
  2. https://www.academia.edu/1411970/The_Influence_of_Climatic_Change_on_the_Late_Bronze_Age_Collapse_and_the_Greek_Dark_Ages
  3. https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/1177_B_C.html?id=39qIngEACAAJ&redir_esc=y
  4. https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/1177_B_C_The_Year_Civilization_Collapsed.html?id=FGFQBwAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y
  5. https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Making_of_the_Middle_Sea.html?id=yrzOnQAACAAJ&redir_esc=y
This page was last edited on Monday, 30 Nov 2020 at 13:12 UTC

Explore related arguments