Project funded by the Swedish Research Council

Swedish Research Council Project 2015-01192.
Project Director Peter M. Fischer

The Collapse of Bronze Age Societies in the Eastern Mediterranean: Sea Peoples in Cyprus?

The aim of the project is to investigate the causes of disruption in international trade and eventually the partial/total collapse of the sophisticated Bronze Age civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean around 1200 BCE. Hypotheses explaining this severe cultural crisis involve the appearance of invading peoples, the “Sea Peoples”. This Sea Peoples phenomenon might have been initiated by south-eastward migration starting in Italy, continuing over the Mediterranean and the Balkans to Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean islands and eventually ending in the Levant and Egypt. It has been proposed that rapid climate change around 1200 BCE has been the decisive factor which lead to the south-east migration. Migration might have been caused by this climate change, which might have resulted in famine, but there are other factors to consider such as a changed rule, altered social conditions, increased social mobility and economic motives at the end of the “Mycenaean palatial period”.

The nucleus of the project is the study of the economic, political and climatological situation in Cyprus, the centre of international trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. Bronze Age trade with Cypriot copper from its rich ores – copper was one of the most coveted products at that time – involved not only the entire Mediterranean but also the remainder of Europe. The study of a changed situation in Cyprus and finds which relate to the Sea People phenomenon, e.g. objects which originate in central Europe/Italy/the Balkans, will lead to a greater understanding of the general crisis.