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1177 B.C.: The year civilization collapsed

An archeological history by Eric H. Cline

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The Five W's of the end of the Bronze Age

  • Aug 12, 2014
Cline uses archeology, inscriptions, contemporary document caches, and ancient historical text (including the Bible and Homer's Greek history/legends/myths of the Trojan War) to explore who, what, when, where, and why the major empires of the Mediterranean region all collapsed between 1200 and 1100 B. C.  The date of Cline's title is based on the Egyptian inscriptions that blame the "Sea Peoples" attack, while the Hittite, Babylonian, and other cultures around the eastern rim of the sea all experienced some form of collapse about the same time.

Problem is, no one knows for sure who these "Sea People" were, or where they came from.  Cline pulls together the evidence and then discusses multiple possibilities to answer that question and consider a broader range of factors including climate change, natural disaster, international trading and diplomatic relationships, the rise of private economic business relationships and internal  rebellion, and complex systems collapse (citing Jared Diamond's book Collapse which I have read and reviewed).

Along the way, while the book seems targeted to a popular audience, Cline gets deep in the weeds of people and place names and what seems like a fascinating premise gets really dry.  There is lots of citing of scholarly disagreements that mean something to the professional archaeologists, obviously, but not to the layman like me.  I appreciate his attempt to balance the evidence and not make unsupported or unsupportable assertions but a better narrative writer (like Diamond for instance) would do a better job of handling the information without losing the narrative interest.

The key driver of Cline's argument is that the Bronze Age, much like today's world, was one of the first eras in world history where international trade and relations made societies interdependent, multicultural, and both materially and culturally richer but at the same time more vulnerable to complex interactions not then (or even now) well understood.  His point does seem valid and well argued, and gives the book relevance even if it isn't as interesting as I had hoped.

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Todd Stockslager ()
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I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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