Skip to main content

Mystery of the Sea Peoples of the Bronze Age

Hittite boat

The Sea Peoples are thought to have been a confederacy of seafaring raiders who could have possibly originated from either western Anatolia or southern Europe, specifically a region of the Aegean Sea, who sailed around the eastern Mediterranean. They invaded and destroyed Anatolia, Syria, Canaan, Cyprus, and Egypt toward the end of the Bronze Age. However, the actual identity of the Sea Peoples has remained enigmatic and modern scholars have only the scattered records of ancient civilizations and archaeological analysis to inform them.



The Sea Peoples are documented during the late 19th dynasty and especially during year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty when they tried to enter or control the Egyptian territory. The Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah explicitly refers to them by the term "the foreign-countries (or 'peoples') of the sea" in his Great Karnak Inscription. Most scholars believe that they invaded Cyprus, Hatti and the Levant.

Among the Sea Peoples identified in Egyptian records are the Ekwesh, possibly a group of Bronze Age Greeks (Achaeans); the Teresh; the Tyrrhenians, possibly ancestors of the Etruscans; Lukka, an Anatolian people of the Aegean who may have given their name to the region of Lycia and the Lycian language; the Sherden, possibly Sardinians or people of Sardis; the Shekelesh, identified possibly with the Italic tribe called Siculi; the Peleset, whose name is generally believed to refer to the Philistines, who might have come from Crete with the Tekrur (possibly Greek Teucrians) and whose tribe were the only major member of the Sea Peoples known to have settled permanently in the Levant.

The bronze age collapse
Two Suppiluliumas: End of Hittites
Photo: Hittite Boat figure at Karatepe Open Air Museum, Osmaniye, near Adana, Turkey.

Popular posts from this blog

Hattians - First Civilizations in Anatolia

The Hattians were an ancient people who inhabited the land of Hatti in Asia Minor in the 3rd to 2nd millennia BC. They spoke a non-Indo-European language of uncertain affiliation called Hattic (now believed by some to be related to the Northwest Caucasian language group). They eventually merged with or were replaced by the Hittites, who spoke the Indo-European Hittite language.

Stoic Philosophers of Tarsus & Soli

When Alexander the Great passed through with his armies in 333 BC and nearly met his death here after a bath in the Cydnus. Strabo praises the cultural level of Tarsus in this period with its philosophers, poets and linguists. The schools of Tarsus rivaled those of Athens and Alexandria. At this time the library of Tarsus held 200,000 books, including a huge collection of scientific works.

Etruscans: Anatolian Italians?

The Etruscan civilization is the name given today to the culture and way of life of people of ancient Italy whom ancient Romans called Etrusci or Tusci. The ancient Greeks' word for them was Tyrrhenoi, or Tyrrsenoi. The Etruscans themselves used the term Rasenna, which was syncopated to Rasna or Raśna.