The Sea People Event

David Kaniewsk and ten colleagues have recently published a radiocarbon dating study of materials from the ancient port of Gibala near Ugarit in Syria. This study is in the context of textual evidence for the “Sea People event.” Here’s the bottom line,

By a combined use of radiocarbon, archaeological and historical data, the first firm date of 1192–1190 BC is proposed for the terminal destruction and disintegration of Late Bronze Age societies in the Northern Levant. The collapse caused by the Sea Peoples marks a historical watershed and from these crisis years arose a new world. Later, the Greeks narrated and heroised this period with the myths and stories on the fall of Troy (Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey). Some of the Sea Peoples, the Philistines, received a significant recognition in Biblical texts, and the name Palestine derives from these settlers. [references deleted]

This date conforms well with the commonly suggested 1190-1185 BCE date range for the fall of Ugarit. Note: Kaniewsk places the destruction of Ugarit between 1192 and 1175 BCE (Fig 1). Not surprisingly or even uniquely, the study points to a process rather than an event. This paper touches on an issue I discuss in my essay on the Mesopotamian origins of Homeric augury and I need to think about how I might integrate it into that essay or a follow up essay.

Kaniewski David, Elise Van Campo, Karel Van Lerberghe, Tom Boiy, Klaas Vansteenhuyse, Greta Jans, Karin Nys, Harvey Weiss, Christophe Morhange, Thierry Otto, and Joachim Bretschneider, “The Sea Peoples, from Cuneiform Tablets to Carbon Dating,” PLoS ONE 6(6), 2011 (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020232) (open access)

2 thoughts on “The Sea People Event”

  1. That piqued my interest and I reviewed what you wrote in your February post, Send me one eagle augur, that I assume you’re alluding to.
    Are you suggesting that the collapse of Ugarit and the Sea People kerfuffle coincides with the adoption of eastern-derived augury by the Greeks? And when computing all of these difficult historical variables, are you also juggling the alleged Lydian origin of the Etruscans? They had a reknowned penchant for that same Asian augury. The Tursha have been often believed to be “Proto-Etruscans” although, while intriguing, there is no convincing proof of this as far as I know although I find the linguistic, religious and cultural data on the Etruscans to satisfyingly point to their separation from Asia Minor around this same time.

  2. Glen,
    Interesting point. I was referring to the essay on the Mesopotamian origin of Homeric augury that I sent off for peer review two months ago. I try to avoid the Etruscans at almost all cost. I know next to nothing about them. In my essay on the Mesopotamian origin of Homeric augur I do cite in a footnote, without comment, Sokolowski’s attempt make a parallel between Etruscan augury and a Greek inscription from Ephesus (Die Inschriften von Ephesos #1867). I also suggest that the decades before and after the “Sea People event” was one of a couple of times when things were ripe for the transmission of Mesopotamian traditions to the Greek speaking Aegean. If you, or anyone else, would like it, I would be happy to email a draft of my paper.

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