THE BRONZE AGE COLLAPSE IN THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN

Cultures are complex systems, made up of a large number of interacting components asymmetrically organized. They often operate somewhere between order and disorder. Such systems can appear to operate quite stably for some time, but they are actually adapting. But there comes a moment when complex cultures reach a crisis point. A very small trigger can set off a crisis — a single grain of sand can cause a collapse

Mycenaean culture, the most important in ancient Greece would reach a peak in around 1300 BC. Only 100 years later, around 1200 BC, the civilization began to disappear. The Mycenaean palaces, still functioning and filled with treasure, were abandoned. Villages and towns were burned to the ground. By the end of the twelfth century, the palace system had vanished.

The main scientific theory has been that the collapse was caused by ”attacks from northern lands” and ”peoples of the countries of the sea”. There were also other collapses in the Mediterranean region (Anatolia, Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus). The ancient Egyptian kingdom was attacked but managed to resist.

A widespread myth in recent years has been that earthquakes caused the Mycenenaean collapse. A recent German academic study has provided evidence to the contrary.

Bronze Age Mycenaean palaces in Greece were not destroyed by an earthquake catastrophe according to German archaeoseismologist Klaus-Günter Hinzen from the University of Cologne and archaeologist Joseph Maran from the University of Heidelberg. They have reassessed the demise of the ancient cities Tiryns and Midea, part of the culture.

There are a number of hypotheses concerning the perishing of the Mycenaean palaces in the 1180s BC. It was not one earthquake or an ‘earthquake storm’ at the end of the Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean that was the cause.

The citadels of Tiryns and Midea, for example, were both built on ridges. The upper town of Tiryns stands on a limestone ridge, while the surrounding lower town stands on loose sediments. The effects of earthquakes on sediments are much stronger, Hinzen and Maran point out. In an earthquake the lower town would be destroyed first, not the palace. Especially in the lower town, however, no damage has been proven.

The ongoing exhibition that will end in June 2019 at Badisches Landesmuseum, Schloss Karlsruhe, in the catalogue ”Mykene – Die sagenhafte Welt des Agamemnon” (wbg Philipp von Zabern Verlag, 2018) has provided the latest and most likely hypothesis for the catastrophe-collapse:

In Kleinasien ging, um 1200 v-Chr. das Grosskönigtum der Hethiter unter. Ähnlich verhielt es sich in den hethitischen Vasallenstaaten entlang der syrischen Küste (Kömigreich von Ugarit). In Königreich Amurru in Libanon, gingen Städten und Palästen unter. In heutigen Israel verliessen Bewohner ihre Städte. Auf Zypern brannte Enkoni nieder. Es herrschte Hungersnot.

Aus den letzten Jahrzehnten vor 1200 v.Chr. liegen vermehrt Indizien für Beutezuege von Piraten und Seeschlachten im östlichen Mittelmeer vor. Die Ausrüstung dieser feindlichen Seefahrer mit Hörnerhelm, Rundschild sowie geradem Schwert mit konischen Heft hebt sich deutlich vor. Sie lebten auf Schiffen. Seevölkereinheiten kämpften als Gardekrieger des Pharaos gegen die Hethither. Diese militärische Strategie des Pharaos erinnert an das Vorgehen römischer Kaiser der Spätantike, die ebenfalls Krieger feindlicher Nachbarvölker (germanischer Stämme etwa) in ihre Armeen eingliederten.

Interne Krisen wirtschaftlicher und politischer Art waren auch möglich. Ein Aufruhr von mykenischen Bauern und Handwerkern, vielleicht?

Using the experience of the method of applied history might be useful to explain what caused the disaster at the end of the Greek Heroic Age when the complex and highly developed Mycenaean culture fell apart.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: