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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.

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