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The End of the Bronze Age:

what went wrong?



Signs of trouble (verbal and non-verbal) in Greece,

Anatolia, Egypt and the Levant
Disaster strikes cataclysm throughout eastern
A. Invasions/migrations B. Internal conflict C.
Natural disaster D. Systems collapse E. All of the
above F. none of the above G. some of the above
Results: Darkness and eventually new configurations
of power and culture and technology (the IRON AGE)
And finally, the problem of the Trojan War

I. First, the non-verbal signs: Mycenaes

walls are strong but..

Mycenaen Entrenchment in 13th century

Mid-13th century (1200s) walls

strengthend and expanded in
Towards end of 13th century
sally gate and secret cistern

Mycenaean cistern
Note: similar precautions
in Athens

What is the danger?

Who is the enemy?

The semi-verbal - Pylos

Linear B tablets (the
cross-section of a cell )
preserved by fire of
Thus the watchers are
guarding the coastal
800 men are sent into two
sections of the coast.
What were they
watching for?

The verbal: anxious letters ( Hatti, Cypus, Ugarit) and

inflated claims (Egypt)

Merneptah in Egypt
asserted that he
repelled Libyans
and those of the
countries of the
Ramsses III (118756):

Ramsses III (11187-1156):

The foreign countries made a conspiracy in their islands No land could
stand before their arms, from Hatti, Kode (= Tarhuntassa), Carchemish,
Arzawa, and Alashiya on . . . They were coming forward toward Egypt, while
the flame was prepared for them. Their confederation was the Peleset, Tjeker,
shekelesh, Denyen, and Weshesh, lands united ( Van de Mieroop p. 195)

so called
Sea Peoples!

II. Disaster strikes!

NB: Dorian invasion is a how a

discredited theory

III. Explanations
A. Migrations/Invasions -- NEW

Problems: are the people new? (e.g. Sea peoples) Do they settle down (e.g. Dorians

B. Internal conflict
within ruling elites or class

C. Natural or Environmental disaster

(a suggestion most focused on Aegean world)
Climate change drought, famine?
Earthquake (some evidence of earthquakes in Peloponnese at this time)

D. Systems Collapse?

IV. Results: Darkness especially dark in Greece -and eventually new configurations of power and culture
and technology (the IRON AGE)
In the Greek world
collapse of the
palace system
What happens to
the kings?
In Linear B tablets
(cf. Dartmouth site)but darkness
Mycenaean /social from which
Wanaka wanax a new culture and

WA-NA-KA [wanax]
Mentioned at both Pylos and Knossos,
only one wanax appears to have
existed at either place.. In some cases,
wanax appears to be used in the
tablets as a divine title, but this does
not necessarily imply that the wanax
was some sort of priest-king. Some
tradesmen a potter, a fuller, and an
armorer(?) are referred to by the
adjectival form wanakteros and were
therefore presumably in some sense in
the royal service. Some of the
painted stirrup jars from Thebes,
Eleusis, Tiryns, and Chania are labelled
in paint with the same adjective,
wanaktero. These jars, which are
among those almost certainly made in
western Crete, presumably contained
produce (wine or oil) from royal
vineyards or olive orchards. They are
particularly significant as indicating
that there was a LM IIIB wanax of
western Crete, presumably one
resident at the important site of
Chania (Classical Kydonia, Linear B KUDO-NI-JA). The wanax of Pylos was a
major landholder. It has been
suggested, on the basis of
unfortunately inconclusive evidence,
that his name was Enkhelyawon (or

Thebes. The connection of Linear

B QA-SI-RE-U with Homeric
basileus meaning king is
undeniable, but it is equally clear
that the Mycenaean quasileus
was nothing more than some kind
of chief or leader of a small group,
in one case a group of
bronzesmiths. In some contexts
the quasileus may have been in
charge of small, outlying districts,
in which case the metamorphosis
from Mycenaean village
headman to Homeric
chieftain/king would be
explicable in view of the chaotic
conditions which followed the
collapse first of Mycenaean
palatial civilization and then of
Mycenaean civilization in a
broader sense during the period
ca. 1200-1000 B.C. An extreme
view held by Palmer insists that
QA-SI-RE-U and words derived
from it never occur in Mycenaean
contexts not involving craftsmen
in some way and therefore that
quasileus signifies nothing more

IV. The Trojan War how does it fit in?

Bronze age perspective on Troy [not Bronze Age
name, however]
3000-1800 continuity
1800 Troy VI (destroyed
by earthquake c. 1300
1300 Troy VII A (destroyed
by man other things being equal
the conclusion would be drawnthat
the fall of Troy vII A was part of the
general cataclysm of about 1200
throughout the Aegean area.

Dark ages intervene memory
of the Bronze Age and its society
Homers Iliad c. 750 BCE recreates story of the heroes at Troy the basileis
and occasionally the wanax but institutions, social and political and religious
belong to the new world of Iron Age Aegean.