Cultures > Bronze Age Collapse

Bronze Age Collapse

Background

Mesopotamia

During the Bronze Age Collapse around 1300 BCE it appears that Assyria was conquered in succession by Mitanni and then by the Hittites. However, in the chaos of the conquests the Assyrians were able to reestablish control over Mesopotamia.

The Hittites and Mitanni would keep trying to invade Assyria but would be unable to make any ground. Mitanni would eventually be taken over by the Hittites and around 1180 BCE the Hittite civilization would collapse and disintegrate into the Neo-Hittite states which would exist until around 800 BCE. The Hittite civilization was thought to have collapsed because of invading people in the eastern Mediterranean that pushed them directly into Assyria however, this "sea people invasion" theory is widely debated.

Regardless the Bronze Age Collapse appears to have affected Mesopotamia less than the other regions of the world which means there was probably less warfare going on.

The Middle Assyrian Empire controlled colonies in Anatolia, which came under attack from the Mushki. Tiglath-Pileser I (reigned 1114–1076 BC) was able to defeat and repel these attacks. The Assyrian Empire survived intact throughout much of this period, with Assyria dominating and often ruling Babylonia directly, controlling south east and south western Anatolia, north western Iran and much of northern and central Syria and Canaan, as far as the Mediterranean and Cyprus. The Arameans and Phrygians were subjected, and Assyria and its colonies were not threatened by the Sea Peoples. However, after the death of Tiglath-Pileser I in 1076 BC, Assyria withdrew to its natural borders in northern Mesopotamia. Assyria retained a stable monarchy, the best army in the world[citation needed] and an efficient civil administration, thus enabling it to survive the Bronze Age Collapse intact and, from the late 10th Century BC, it once more began to assert itself internationally.[13] However, the situation in Babylonia was very different: after the Assyrian withdrawal, new groups of Semites, such as the Aramaeans and later Chaldeans and Suteans, spread unchecked into Babylonia, and the control by its weak kings barely extended beyond the city limits of Babylon. Babylon was sacked by the Elamites under Shutruk-Nahhunte (ca. 1185–1155 BC), and lost control of the Diyala River valley to Assyria.

Theories

Drought

It is important to note the influences that climate can play on causing warfare over crop shortages and drought. Some historians have noted using the Palmer Drought Index that there indeed may have been a prolonged period of drought and this would have caused many crop failures and eventually famine. Most warfare is started over food and resources in the ancient world so it looks like there were many invasions from the areas hard hit by the famine to regions that may have had a surplus from before.

Kaniewski et al. 2001

A couple of the current theories are that a drought in Cyprus and the Levant helped cause a famine in Ugarit, Anatolia and elsewhere in the region. There may also have been earthquakes in this region as well as coupled with invaders.

Earthquakes

Most sites on active fault zones. Very active seismically. Earthquake storm hypothesis 1225 - 1175 BCE

Mycenae built right on top of a major fault line, both it and Tiryns show signs of earthquake and building collapses that buried bodies. 17 bodies at 6 different sites attributed to earthquakes during this time. This wouldnt have brought an end to everything though.

Famine

Famine is hard to find in the archaeological record except for in written texts. A great site for this is Ugarit and shows that the famine could have been directly tied to the period of drought. This was also described by letters from the Hittite king as well.

Invasions

Coupled with drought and famine come warfare.

Southern Archive Court V Palace - Letter from the King of Ugarit to king of Cyprus

Just destruction of palace is likely internal rebellion, outside invasion whole city is burnt or destroyed. Troy IV has tilted walls indicative of an earthquake. Ugarit also has tilted walls as well.

Invention of Iron

Invention of iron occurred right around 1200 BCE could have resulted in the first iron vs bronze battles. Iron was stronger, easier to work with and produced higher quality weapons and armor. Mesopotamia had little iron ore so when other civilizations got this first such as the Hittites it was a great military advantage. During this time the

Trade Route Collapse

Bronze age trade was important for survival.

Theories

Sources

Secondary Sources

Erich Cline - 1177 BCE The Year Civilization Collapsed

Eric Cline 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed Presentation

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources