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The Sea Peoples are a purported seafaring
confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action. Usually created by a treaty, confederations of states tend to be established for dealing with critical issu ...
that attacked
ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization  A civilization (or civilisation) is a that is characterized by , , a form of government, and systems of communication (such as ). Civilizations are intimately associated with additional char ...

ancient Egypt
and other regions of the
East Mediterranean Eastern Mediterranean is a loose definition of the eastern approximate half, or third, of the Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely encl ...

East Mediterranean
prior to and during the
Late Bronze Age collapse The Late Bronze Age collapse was a transition period in a large area covering much of Southeast Europe, West Asia and North Africa North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly ac ...
(1200–900 BCE).. Quote: "First coined in 1881 by the French Egyptologist G. Maspero (1896), the somewhat misleading term 'Sea Peoples' encompasses the ethnonyms Lukka, Sherden, Shekelesh, Teresh, Eqwesh, Denyen, Sikil / Tjekker, Weshesh, and Peleset (Philistines). [Footnote: The modern term 'Sea Peoples' refers to peoples that appear in several New Kingdom Egyptian texts as originating from 'islands' (tables 1–2; Adams and Cohen, this volume; see, e.g., Drews 1993, 57 for a summary). The use of quotation marks in association with the term 'Sea Peoples' in our title is intended to draw attention to the problematic nature of this commonly used term. It is noteworthy that the designation 'of the sea' appears only in relation to the Sherden, Shekelesh and Eqwesh. Subsequently, this term was applied somewhat indiscriminately to several additional ethnonyms, including the Philistines, who are portrayed in their earliest appearance as invaders from the north during the reigns of Merenptah and Ramesses Ill (see, e.g., Sandars 1978; Redford 1992, 243, n. 14; for a recent review of the primary and secondary literature, see ). Henceforth the term Sea Peoples will appear without quotation marks.]": "The thesis that a great 'migration of the Sea Peoples' occurred ca. 1200 B.C. is supposedly based on Egyptian inscriptions, one from the reign of Merneptah and another from the reign of Ramesses III. Yet in the inscriptions themselves, such a migration nowhere appears. After reviewing what the Egyptian texts have to say about 'the sea peoples', one Egyptologist (Wolfgang Helck) recently remarked that although some things are unclear, 'eins ist aber sicher: Nach den ägyptischen Texten haben wir es nicht mit einer "Völkerwanderung" zu tun' One thing is however certain: according to the Egyptian texts we are not dealing with a "migration"'Thus the migration hypothesis is based not on the inscriptions themselves but on their interpretation". Following the creation of the concept in the nineteenth century, it became one of the most famous chapters of Egyptian history, given its connection with, in the words of Wilhelm Max Müller, "the most important questions of
ethnography Ethnography (from ''ethnos'' "folk, people, nation" and ''grapho'' "I write") is a branch of and the systematic study of individual s. Ethnography explores cultural phenomena from the point of view of the subject of the study. Ethnography ...

ethnography
and the primitive history of classic nations". Their origins undocumented, the various Sea Peoples have been proposed to have originated from places that include western
Asia Minor Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from 'almost' and 'island') is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of ...

Asia Minor
, the
Aegean Aegean may refer to: *Aegean Sea *Aegean Islands *Aegean Region (geographical), Turkey *Aegean Region (statistical), Turkey *Aegean civilizations *Aegean languages, a group of ancient languages and proposed language family *Aegean Sea (theme), a n ...

Aegean
, the
Mediterranean islands The following is a list of islands in the Mediterranean Sea. By area By population above 200,000 # Sicily 5,060,000 # Sardinia 1,655,000 # Cyprus 1,170,125 # Majorca 860,000 # Crete 623,000 # Malta (island), Malta 494,000 # Corsica 322,000 ...
and
Southern Europe Southern Europe is the southern region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth a ...

Southern Europe
. Although the archaeological inscriptions do not include reference to a migration, the Sea Peoples are conjectured to have sailed around the
eastern Mediterranean Eastern Mediterranean is a loose definition of the eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current Chinese airline based in Shanghai *Eastern Air, former name of Zambia Skyways *Eastern Air Lines, a defunct Amer ...

eastern Mediterranean
and invaded
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
,
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...
,
Phoenicia Phoenicia () was an ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsWordNet Search – 3 ...
,
Canaan A 1692 map of Canaan, by Philip Lea Canaan (; Northwest Semitic Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of the Semitic languages comprising the indigenous languages of the Levant. It would have ...

Canaan
,
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially called the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or politi ...

Cyprus
, and
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a spanning the and the of . It is bordered by the to , the () and to , the to the east, to , and to . In the northeast, the , which is the northern arm of the R ...

Egypt
toward the end of the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric that was characterized by the use of , in some areas , and other early features of urban . The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the , as proposed in modern times by , for classifying and studying a ...
. French Egyptologist Emmanuel de Rougé first used the term ' (literally "peoples of the sea") in 1855 in a description of reliefs on the Second Pylon at Medinet Habu documenting Year 8 of
Ramesses III Usermaatre Meryamun Ramesses III (also written Ramses and Rameses) was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt, Twentieth Dynasty in Ancient Egypt. He is thought to have reigned from 26 March 1186 to 15 April 1155 BC and is considered ...
.: riginal French'': "On a depuis longtemps rapproché ces Kefa, avec vraisemblance, des Caphtorim de la Bible, au quels Gesenius, avec la plupart des interprètes, assigne pour résidence les îles de Crete ou de Chypre. Les habitants de l'île de Chypre durent nécessairement prendre parti dans cette guerre; peut-être les Kefas étaient-ils alors les alliés de l'Egypte. En tout cas, notre inscription ne détaille pas les noms de ces peuples, venus des îles de la Méditerranée. Champollion a fait remarquer que les T'akkari u'il nomme Fekkaros; voyez l'appendice à la suite de cette noticeet les Schartana, étaient reconnaissables, dans les vaisseaux ennemis, à leurs coiffures singulières. De plus, dans les écussons des peuples vaincus, les Schartana et les Touirasch portent la désignation de peuples de la mer. Il est donc probable qu'ils appartiennent à ces nations venues des îles ou des côtes de l'Archipel. Les Rabou sont encore reconnaissables parmi les prisonniers.
ranslation'': "For a long time Kefa has been identified, with
verisimilitude In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, l ...
, with
Caphthorim Caphtor ( he, כפתור) is a locality mentioned in the Bible, in which its people are called Caphtorites or Caphtorim and are named as a division of the ancient Egyptians. Caphtor is also mentioned in ancient inscriptions from Ancient Egypt, Egyp ...
of the Bible, to whom Gesenius, along with most interpreters, assigns as a residence the islands of
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern Modern may refer to: History *Modern history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology ...

Crete
or Cyprus. The people of Cyprus had certainly to take sides in this war; perhaps they were then the allies of Egypt. In any case, our entry does not detail the names of these people, from the islands of the Mediterranean. Champollion noted that T'akkari hich he names Fekkaros; see appendix at the following entryand Schartana, were recognizable, in enemy ships, with unique hairstyles. In addition, in the crests of the conquered peoples, the Schartana and the Touirasch bear the designation of the peoples of the sea. It is therefore likely that they belong to these nations from islands or coasts of the archipelago. The Rabou are still recognizable among the prisoners."
Gaston Maspero Sir Gaston Camille Charles Maspero (23 June 1846 – 30 June 1916) was a French Egyptologist Egyptology (from ''Egypt'' and Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλά ...

Gaston Maspero
, de Rougé's successor at the
Collège de France The Collège de France (), formerly known as the ''Collège Royal'' or as the ''Collège impérial'' founded in 1530 by François I, is a higher education and research establishment (''grand établissement'') in France. It is located in Paris, i ...
, subsequently popularized the term "Sea Peoples"—and an associated migration-theory—in the late 19th century. Since the early 1990s, his migration theory has been brought into question by a number of scholars. The Sea Peoples remain unidentified in the eyes of most modern scholars, and hypotheses regarding the origin of the various groups are the source of much speculation. Existing theories variously propose equating them with several
Aegean Aegean may refer to: *Aegean Sea *Aegean Islands *Aegean Region (geographical), Turkey *Aegean Region (statistical), Turkey *Aegean civilizations *Aegean languages, a group of ancient languages and proposed language family *Aegean Sea (theme), a n ...
tribes, raiders from
Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the westernmost peninsulas of the of Eurasia, it shares the continental landmass of with both ...

Central Europe
, scattered soldiers who turned to
piracy Piracy is an act of robbery Robbery is the crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine publi ...

piracy
or became
refugees A refugee, generally speaking, is a forced displacement, displaced person who has crossed national boundaries and who cannot or is unwilling to return home due to well-founded fear of persecution.
refugees
, and links with natural disasters such as earthquakes or climatic shifts.


History of the concept

The concept of the Sea Peoples was first described by Emmanuel de Rougé in 1855, then
curator A curator (from la, cura, meaning "to take care") is a manager or overseer. When working with cultural organizations, a curator is typically a "collections curator" or an "exhibitions curator", and has multifaceted tasks dependent on the parti ...
of the
Louvre The Louvre ( ), or the Louvre Museum ( ), is the world's most-visited museum, and a historic landmark in Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of Fr ...

Louvre
, in his work ''Note on Some Hieroglyphic Texts Recently Published by Mr. Greene'', describing the battles of
Ramesses III Usermaatre Meryamun Ramesses III (also written Ramses and Rameses) was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt, Twentieth Dynasty in Ancient Egypt. He is thought to have reigned from 26 March 1186 to 15 April 1155 BC and is considered ...
described on the Second Pylon at Medinet Habu, and based upon recent photographs of the temple by John Beasley Greene.: original French: "Les notices et la XVIII° lettre de Champollion donnent un résumé très-complet et très-fidèle des campagnes de Ramsès III (son Ramsès Meiamoun), surtout de celle représentée sur le mur du nord, où se trouve le célèbre bas-relief d'un combat naval dans lequel les vaisseaux ennemis sont acculés au rivage par la flotte égyptienne, et en même temps écrasés par l'armée de terre qui les presse de l'autre côté.
Champollion a reconnu que, parmi les ennemis de Ramsès, se trouvaient des peuples nouveaux, appartenant à la race blanche, et désignés sous le nom de Tamhou. Il n'a copié que la première ligne de la grande inscription du pylône, où se trouve indiquée une date de la neuvième année du roi, et il a signalé l'importance de ce texte, qui contient plusieurs noms de peuples. ...
Après avoir reçu ce juste tribut de louanges, le roi commence enfin son discours à la ligne treizième. Il recommande à tous ses sujets d'être attentifs à ses paroles, et leur indique les sentiments qui doivent les diriger dans la vie; puis, il se vante de ses exploits, dont il rapporte cependant la gloire à son père, le dieu Ammon, qui lui a donné toutes les conquêtes. Après une tête de colonne qui malheureusement a beaucoup souffert, vient un des passages les plus importants de notre texte, dans lequel le roi énumère les ennemis qu'il a vaincus, en commençant par les Chéta, les Ati, les Karkamasch, les Aratou, les Arasa; puis, après une courte interruption : leur camp ensemble dans le pays d' Amaour, j'ai détruit ces peuples et leur pays comme s'ils n'avaient jamais existé.
On voit que ces différents peuples, ennemis ordinaires des rois d'Égypte dans leurs campagnes d'Asie antérieures à celles de Ramsès III, sont réunis dans un seul groupe. A la colonne suivante, nous trouvons un second groupe formé des peuples désignés par Champollion comme ayant joué un rôle important dans la campagne pendant laquelle s'est livré le combat naval; ce sont les Poursata, les Takkara, les Shakarsha, les Taamou et les Ouaschascha. On voit que les Sharetana manquent seuls à cette énumération."
ranslation'': "The notices and the 17th letter of Champollion provide a complete and faithful summary of the campaigns of Ramses III (his Ramses Ammon), especially that represented on the north wall, containing the famous bas-relief of a naval battle where the enemy ships are driven to shore by the Egyptian fleet, and simultaneously crushed by the army, which the press on the other side.
Champollion recognized that among the enemies of Ramesses, there were a new people, belonging to the white race, and designated as the Tamhou. He copied the first line of the large inscription of the pylon, with a date he specified in the ninth year of the reign, and he noted the importance of this text, which contains several names of people. ...
After receiving this just tribute of praise, the King finally begins his speech to the thirteenth line. It recommends to all his subjects to pay attention to his words, and shows their feelings that must lead them in life; then he boasts of his exploits, he brings glory to his father, the god Ammon, who gave him all the conquests. After a column header which unfortunately suffered a lot, is one of the most important parts of our text, in which the king lists the enemies he has overcome, beginning with the Cheta, the Ati, the Karkamasch the Aratou, the Arasa; then, after a short break: at their camp in the country of Amaour, I destroyed the people and their country as if they had never existed
We see that these different peoples, common enemies of Egypt in their Asian campaigns before those of Ramses III, are gathered in one group. In the next column, we find a second group formed of people considered by Champollion to have played an important role in the campaign with the naval combat ships; it is the Poursata, the Takkara, the Shakarsha, the Taamou, and Ouaschascha. We see that the only missing Sharetana to this list."
De Rougé noted that "in the crests of the conquered peoples the
Sherden The Sherden (Egyptian language, Egyptian: ''šrdn'', ''šꜣrdꜣnꜣ'' or ''šꜣrdynꜣ'', Ugaritic: ''šrdnn(m)'' and ''trtn(m)'', possibly Akkadian language, Akkadian: ''še–er–ta–an–nu''; also glossed “Shardana” or “Sherdanu”) a ...
and the Teresh bear the designation of the ''peuples de la mer''", in a reference to the prisoners depicted at the base of the Fortified East Gate. In 1867, de Rougé published his ''Excerpts of a dissertation on the attacks directed against Egypt by the peoples of the Mediterranean in the 14th century BCE'', which focused primarily on the battles of
Ramesses II Ramesses II ( egy, rꜥ-ms-sw meaning "Ra is the one who bore him", ''Rīʿa-məsī-sū'', ; ) was the third pharaoh Pharaoh ( , ; cop, , Pǝrro) is the common title now used for the monarch A monarch is a head of state ...
and
Merneptah Merneptah or Merenptah (reigned July or August 1213 BC – May 2, 1203 BC) was the fourth pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along th ...
and which proposed translations for many of the geographic names included in the hieroglyphic inscriptions. De Rougé later became chair of Egyptology at the
Collège de France The Collège de France (), formerly known as the ''Collège Royal'' or as the ''Collège impérial'' founded in 1530 by François I, is a higher education and research establishment (''grand établissement'') in France. It is located in Paris, i ...
and was succeeded by
Gaston Maspero Sir Gaston Camille Charles Maspero (23 June 1846 – 30 June 1916) was a French Egyptologist Egyptology (from ''Egypt'' and Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλά ...

Gaston Maspero
. Maspero built upon de Rougé's work and published ''The Struggle of the Nations'', in which he described the theory of the seaborne migrations in detail in 1895–96 for a wider audience, at a time when the idea of population migrations would have felt familiar to the general population. The migration theory was taken up by other scholars such as
Eduard Meyer Eduard Meyer (25 January 1855 – 31 August 1930) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see al ...

Eduard Meyer
and became the generally accepted theory amongst Egyptologists and Orientalists.: "In fact, this migration of the Sea Peoples is not to be found in Egyptian inscriptions, but was launched by Gaston Maspero in 1873 ootnote: In the Revue Critique d'Histoire et de Littérature 1873, pp. 85–86 Although Maspero's proposal initially seemed unlikely, it gained credibility with the publication of the Lemnos stele. In 1895, in his popular ''Histoire ancienne des peuples de l'orient classique'' ootnote; Vol. II (Paris:1895), translated into English as ''The Struggle of the Nations'' (ed. A. H. Sayce, tr. M. L. McClure, New York: 1896) Maspero fully elaborated his scenario of "the migration of the Sea Peoples". Adopted by Eduard Meyer for the second edition of his Geschichted es Altertums, the theory won general acceptance among Egyptologists and orientalists." Since the early 1990s, however, it has been brought into question by a number of scholars.: "As E. S. Sherratt has pointed out in an enlightening study of the interplay of ideology and literary strata in the formation of the Homeric epics (1990), phases of active narrative or descriptive invention closely correspond to periods of rapid social and political change. Sherratt notes that one of the characteristic manifestations of this process – in which emerging elites seek to legitimate their power – is 'the transformation of an existing oral epic tradition in order to dress it in more recognizably modern garb' (1990: 821). Can we not see in the history of the archaeology of the Sea Peoples a similar process of literary reformulation, in which old components are reinterpreted and reassembled to tell a new tale? Narrative presupposes that both storyteller and audience share a single perspective, and therein may lie the connection between the intellectual and ideological dimensions of archaeology. To generalize beyond specific, highly localized data, archaeologists must utilize familiar conceptual frameworks and it is from the political and social ideologies of every generation that larger speculations about the historical role of the Sea Peoples have always been drawn. As many papers in this conference have suggested, traditional interpretive structures are in the process of reconsideration and renovation. That is why I believe it essential that we reflect on our current Sea Peoples stories – and see if we cannot detect the subtle yet lingering impact upon them of some timeworn Victorian narratives." The historical narrative stems primarily from seven
Ancient Egyptian Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistori ...
sources and although in these inscriptions the designation "of the sea" does not appear in relation to all of these peoples,: "However, of the nine peoples concerned by these wars, only four were actually defined as coming 'from w3d-wr' or 'from p3 ym'. Furthermore, these expressions seem to be linked more often to vegetation and sweet water than to seawater, and it seems clear that the term "Sea Peoples" has to be abandoned. Some will object to this, basing themselves on the expression ''iww hryw-ib w3d-wr'', usually translated by 'islands situated in the middle of the sea', where some of the Sea Peoples are said to have come from. Indeed. it is this expression that supported the persistent idea that the 'Sea Peoples' came from the
Aegean islands The Aegean Islands ( el, Νησιά Αιγαίου, Nisiá Aigaíou; tr, Ege Adaları) are the group of islands in the Aegean Sea The Aegean Sea ; tr, Ege Denizi is an elongated Bay, embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located betwe ...
or at least from an
East Mediterranean Eastern Mediterranean is a loose definition of the eastern approximate half, or third, of the Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely encl ...
island. Now, these terms are misleading, not only because w3d-wr and p3 ym, quite likely, do not designate 'the sea' here, but also because the term in itself does not always mean 'island'; it can also be used to indicate other kinds of territories not necessarily maritime ones. The argument based on these alleged 'sea islands' is thus groundless ... To conclude, the Philistines came neither from Crete nor from the Aegean islands or coasts, but probably from the southern coast of Asia Minor or from Syria."
the term "Sea Peoples" is commonly used in modern publications to refer to the following nine peoples, in alphabetical order:


Primary documentary records

The Medinet Habu inscriptions from which the Sea Peoples concept was first described remain the primary source and "the basis of virtually all significant discussions of them". Three separate narratives from Egyptian records refer to more than one of the nine peoples, found in a total of six sources. The seventh and most recent source referring to more than one of the nine peoples is a list (Onomasticon) of 610 entities, rather than a narrative. These sources are summarized in the table below.


Ramesses II narrative

Possible records of sea peoples generally or in particular date to two campaigns of
Ramesses II Ramesses II ( egy, rꜥ-ms-sw meaning "Ra is the one who bore him", ''Rīʿa-məsī-sū'', ; ) was the third pharaoh Pharaoh ( , ; cop, , Pǝrro) is the common title now used for the monarch A monarch is a head of state ...
, a pharaoh of the militant
19th Dynasty The Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt (notated Dynasty XIX), also known as the Ramessid dynasty, is classified as the second Dynasty of the Ancient Egyptian New Kingdom of Egypt, New Kingdom period, lasting from 1292 BC to 1189 BC. The 19th Dynasty and ...
: operations in or near the delta in Year 2 of his reign and the major confrontation with the
Hittite Hittite may refer to: * Hittites, ancient Anatolian people ** Hittite language, the earliest-attested Indo-European language ** Hittite grammar ** Hittite phonology ** Hittite cuneiform ** Hittite inscriptions ** Hittite laws ** Hittite religion ** ...

Hittite
Empire and allies at the
Battle of Kadesh The Battle of Kadesh or Battle of Qadesh took place between the forces of the under and the under at the city of on the , just upstream of near the modern . The battle is generally dated to 1274 BC from the , and is the earliest battle i ...
in his Year 5. The years of this long-lived pharaoh's reign are not known exactly, but they must have comprised nearly all of the first half of the 13th century BCE. In his Second Year, an attack of the
Sherden The Sherden (Egyptian language, Egyptian: ''šrdn'', ''šꜣrdꜣnꜣ'' or ''šꜣrdynꜣ'', Ugaritic: ''šrdnn(m)'' and ''trtn(m)'', possibly Akkadian language, Akkadian: ''še–er–ta–an–nu''; also glossed “Shardana” or “Sherdanu”) a ...
, or Shardana, on the
Nile Delta The Nile Delta ( ar, دلتا النيل, or simply , ) is the delta Delta commonly refers to: * Delta (letter) (Δ or δ), a letter of the Greek alphabet * River delta, a landform at the mouth of a river * D (NATO phonetic alphabet: "Delta"), ...
was repulsed and defeated by Ramesses, who captured some of the pirates. The event is recorded on Tanis Stele II. An inscription by Ramesses II on the stela from
Tanis Tanis; egy, ḏꜥn.t ; ar, صان الحجر, Ṣān al-Ḥaǧar; ; cop, ϫⲁⲛⲓ or or is the Greek name for ancient Egyptian ''ḏꜥn.t'', an important archaeological site in the north-eastern Nile Delta The Nile Delta ( ar, د ...
which recorded the Sherden raiders' raid and subsequent capture speaks of the continuous threat they posed to Egypt's Mediterranean coasts: The Sherden prisoners were subsequently incorporated into the Egyptian army for service on the
Hittite Hittite may refer to: * Hittites, ancient Anatolian people ** Hittite language, the earliest-attested Indo-European language ** Hittite grammar ** Hittite phonology ** Hittite cuneiform ** Hittite inscriptions ** Hittite laws ** Hittite religion ** ...

Hittite
frontier by Ramesses and fought as Egyptian soldiers in the Battle of Kadesh. Another stele usually cited in conjunction with this one is the " Aswan Stele" (there were other stelae at
Aswan Aswan (, also ; ar, أسوان, ʾAswān ; cop, Ⲥⲟⲩⲁⲛ, Souan ) is a city in the south of Egypt Egypt ( ; ar, مِصر ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the North Africa, northeast ...

Aswan
), which mentions the king's operations to defeat a number of peoples including those of the " Great Green (the Egyptian name for the Mediterranean)". It is plausible to assume that the Tanis and Aswan Stelae refer to the same event, in which case they reinforce each other. The Battle of Kadesh was the outcome of a campaign against the Hittites and their allies in the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
in the pharaoh's Year 5. The imminent collision of the Egyptian and Hittite empires became obvious to both, and they both prepared campaigns against the strategic midpoint of Kadesh for the next year. Ramesses divided his Egyptian forces, which were then ambushed piecemeal by the Hittite army and nearly defeated. Ramesses was separated from his forces and had to fight singlehandedly to get back to his troops. He then mustered several counterattacks while waiting for reinforcements. Once the reinforcements from the South and East arrived, the Egyptians managed to drive the Hittites back to Kadesh. While it was a strategic Egyptian victory, neither side managed to attain their operational objectives. At home, Ramesses had his scribes formulate an official description, which has been called "the Bulletin" because it was widely published by inscription. Ten copies survive today on the temples at Abydos,
Karnak The Karnak Temple Complex, commonly known as Karnak (, which was originally derived from ar, خورنق ''Khurnaq'' "fortified village"), comprises a vast mix of decayed temples A temple (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical lan ...

Karnak
,
Luxor Luxor (; ar, الأقصر ', , Upper Egyptian pronunciation: ; Sahidic ''Pape'', ) is a city in Upper (southern) Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is ...
and
Abu Simbel Abu Simbel (also Abu Simbal, Ebsambul or Isambul; ar, أبو سنبل, Abū Sinbal or ar, أبو سمبل, Abū Simbal) is a village in the Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a tra ...

Abu Simbel
, with reliefs depicting the battle. The " Poem of Pentaur", describing the battle survived also. The poem relates that the previously captured Sherden were not only working for the Pharaoh but were also formulating a plan of battle for him; i.e. it was their idea to divide Egyptian forces into four columns. There is no evidence of any collaboration with the Hittites or malicious intent on their part, and if Ramesses considered it, he never left any record of that consideration. The poem lists the peoples who went to Kadesh as allies of the Hittites. Amongst them are some of the sea peoples spoken of in the Egyptian inscriptions previously mentioned, and many of the peoples who would later take part in the great migrations of the 12th century BCE (see Appendix A to the Battle of Kadesh).


Merneptah narrative

The major event of the reign of the Pharaoh
Merneptah Merneptah or Merenptah (reigned July or August 1213 BC – May 2, 1203 BC) was the fourth pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along th ...
(1213 BCE – 1203 BCE), 4th king of the 19th Dynasty was his battle against a confederacy termed "the Nine Bows" at Perire in the western delta in the 5th and 6th years of his reign. Depredations of this confederacy had been so severe that the region was "forsaken as pasturage for cattle, it was left waste from the time of the ancestors". The pharaoh's action against them is attested in a single narrative found in three sources. The most detailed source describing the battle is the
Great Karnak Inscription Location of Cachette court The Great Karnak Inscription is an ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that ...
, and two shorter versions of the same narrative are found in the "Athribis Stele" and the "Cairo Column". The "Cairo column" is a section of a granite column now in the
Cairo Museum The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, known commonly as the Egyptian Museum or the Cairo Museum, in Cairo, Egypt, is home to an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities. It has 120,000 items, with a representative amount on display an ...

Cairo Museum
, which was first published by Maspero in 1881 with just two readable sentences – the first confirming the date of Year 5 and the second stating: "The wretched hiefof Libya has invaded with ——, being men and women, Shekelesh (S'-k-rw-s) ——". The "Athribis stela" is a granite stela found in
Athribis Athribis ( ar, أتريب; Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population ...
and inscribed on both sides, which, like the Cairo column was first published by Maspero, two years later in 1883. The
Merneptah Stele The Merneptah Stele – also known as the Israel Stele or the Victory Stele of Merneptah – is an inscription by the ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a of , concentrated along the lower reaches of the , situated in the plac ...
from Thebes describes the reign of peace resulting from the victory, but does not include any reference to the Sea Peoples. The Nine Bows were acting under the leadership of the king of
Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to Egypt–Libya border, th ...

Libya
and an associated near-concurrent revolt in
Canaan A 1692 map of Canaan, by Philip Lea Canaan (; Northwest Semitic Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of the Semitic languages comprising the indigenous languages of the Levant. It would have ...

Canaan
involving
Gaza Gaza may refer to: Places Palestine * Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea ** Gaza City, a city in the Gaza Strip ** Gaza Governorate, a governorate in the Gaza Strip United States * Gaza, Iowa, an ...
,
Ashkelon Ashkelon or Ashqelon (; he, , ), also known as Ascalon (; grc-gre, Ἀσκάλων, ''Askálōn''; ar, عَسْقَلَان, '), is a coastal city in the Southern District of Israel on the Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea ...
,
Yenoam Yenoam (or Yanoam; ) is a place in ancient Canaan A 1692 map of Canaan, by Philip Lea Canaan (; Northwest Semitic Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of the Semitic languages comprising the ...
and the people of
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...
. Exactly which peoples were consistently in the Nine Bows is not clear, but present at the battle were the Libyans, some neighboring
Meshwesh The Meshwesh (often abbreviated in ancient Egyptian language, Egyptian as Ma) were an ancient Libyan tribe of Berbers, Berber origin from beyond Cyrenaica. According to inscriptions in Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Libu and Tehenou/Tehenu inhabited thi ...
, and possibly a separate revolt in the following year involving peoples from the eastern Mediterranean, including the Kheta (or Hittites), or Syrians, and (in the Israel Stele) for the first time in history, the
Israelites The Israelites (; ) were a confederation of Iron Age ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the history of ancient Israel and Judah, tribal and monarchic peri ...

Israelites
. In addition to them, the first lines of the Karnak inscription include some sea peoples, which must have arrived in the Western Delta or from
Cyrene Cyrene may refer to: Antiquity * Cyrene (mythology), an ancient Greek mythological figure * Cyrene, Libya, an ancient Greek colony in North Africa (modern Libya) ** Crete and Cyrenaica, a province of the Roman Empire ** Cyrenaica, the region aroun ...

Cyrene
by ship: Later in the inscription Merneptah receives news of the attack: "His majesty was enraged at their report, like a lion", assembled his court and gave a rousing speech. Later, he dreamed he saw
Ptah Ptah ( egy, ptḥ, reconstructed ; grc, Φθά; cop, ⲡⲧⲁϩ) is an ancient Egyptian deity Ancient Egyptian deities are the gods A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictiona ...

Ptah
handing him a sword and saying, "Take thou (it) and banish thou the fearful heart from thee." When the bowmen went forth, says the inscription, "
Amun Amun (; also ''Amon'', ''Ammon'', ''Amen''; egy, jmn, ''reconstructed'' ; Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is ...

Amun
was with them as a shield." After six hours, the surviving Nine Bows threw down their weapons, abandoned their baggage and dependents, and ran for their lives. Merneptah states that he defeated the invasion, killing 6,000 soldiers and taking 9,000 prisoners. To be sure of the numbers, among other things, he took the penises of all uncircumcised enemy dead and the hands of all the circumcised, from which history learns that the Ekwesh were
circumcised Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from the human penis. In the most common procedure, the foreskin is opened, adhesions are removed, and the foreskin is separated from the glans. After that, a circumcision device may be placed, and ...

circumcised
, a fact causing some to doubt they were Greek.


Ramesses III narrative

Ramesses III Usermaatre Meryamun Ramesses III (also written Ramses and Rameses) was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt, Twentieth Dynasty in Ancient Egypt. He is thought to have reigned from 26 March 1186 to 15 April 1155 BC and is considered ...
, the second king of the Egyptian 20th Dynasty, who reigned for most of the first half of the 12th century BCE, was forced to deal with a later wave of invasions of the Sea Peoples—the best-recorded of these in his eighth year. This was recorded in two long inscriptions from his Medinet Habu mortuary temple, which are physically separate and somewhat different from one another. The fact that several civilizations collapsed around 1175 BCE, has led to the suggestion that the Sea Peoples may have been involved at the end of the
Hittite Hittite may refer to: * Hittites, ancient Anatolian people ** Hittite language, the earliest-attested Indo-European language ** Hittite grammar ** Hittite phonology ** Hittite cuneiform ** Hittite inscriptions ** Hittite laws ** Hittite religion ** ...

Hittite
, Mycenaean and
Mitanni Mitanni (; Hittite cuneiform Hittite cuneiform is the implementation of cuneiform script Cuneiform is a logo- syllabic script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the ear ...

Mitanni
kingdoms. The American
HittitologistHittitology is the study of the Hittites The Hittites () were an Anatolian peoples, Anatolian people who played an important role in establishing first a kingdom in Kussara before 1750 BC, then the Kültepe, Kanesh or Nesha kingdom (c. 1750–16 ...
Gary Beckman writes, on page 23 of ''Akkadica 120'' (2000): Ramesses' comments about the scale of the Sea Peoples' onslaught in the eastern Mediterranean are confirmed by the destruction of the states of ,
Ugarit Ugarit (; uga, 𐎜𐎂𐎗𐎚, ''ʼUgart''; ar, أُوغَارِيت ''Ūġārīt'' or ''Ūǧārīt''; he, אוּגָרִית ''Ugarit'') was an ancient port city in northern Syria, in the outskirts of modern Latakia, discovered by accident ...

Ugarit
,
Ashkelon Ashkelon or Ashqelon (; he, , ), also known as Ascalon (; grc-gre, Ἀσκάλων, ''Askálōn''; ar, عَسْقَلَان, '), is a coastal city in the Southern District of Israel on the Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea ...
and Hazor around this time. As the Hittitologist
Trevor Bryce Trevor Robert Bryce (; born 1940) is an Australian HittitologistHittitology is the study of the Hittites, an ancient Anatolian people that established an empire around Hattusa in the 2nd millennium BCE. It combines aspects of the archaeology, hi ...
observes:Bryce, p.371 This situation is confirmed by the Medinet Habu temple reliefs of Ramesses III which show that: The inscriptions of
Ramesses III Usermaatre Meryamun Ramesses III (also written Ramses and Rameses) was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt, Twentieth Dynasty in Ancient Egypt. He is thought to have reigned from 26 March 1186 to 15 April 1155 BC and is considered ...
at his Medinet Habu mortuary temple in Thebes record three victorious campaigns against the Sea Peoples considered bona fide, in Years 5, 8 and 12, as well as three considered spurious, against the
Nubia Nubia () (Nobiin Nobiin, or Mahas, is a Northern Nubian languages, Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Nilo-Saharan language family. "Nobiin" is the genitive case, genitive form of ''Nòòbíí'' ("Nubian") and literally means "(lan ...

Nubia
ns and
Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to Egypt–Libya border, th ...

Libya
ns in Year 5 and the Libyans with Asiatics in Year 11. During Year 8 some
Hittites The Hittites () were an Anatolian people who played an important role in establishing first a kingdom in Kussara before 1750 BC, then the Kanesh or Nesha kingdom (c. 1750–1650 BC), and next an empire centered on Hattusa Hattusa (also ...

Hittites
were operating with the Sea Peoples. The inner west wall of the second court describes the invasion of Year 5. Only the Peleset and
Tjeker The Tjeker or Tjekker were one of the Sea Peoples The Sea Peoples are a purported seafaring confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action ...
are mentioned, but the list is lost in a lacuna. The attack was two-pronged, one by sea and one by land; that is, the Sea Peoples divided their forces. Ramesses was waiting in the
Nile The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin Nobiin, or Mahas, is a Northern Nubian languages, Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Nilo-Saharan language family. "Nobiin" is the genitive case, genitive form of ''Nòòbíí'' ("Nub ...

Nile
mouths and trapped the enemy fleet there. The land forces were defeated separately. The Sea Peoples did not learn any lessons from this defeat, as they repeated their mistake in Year 8 with a similar result. The campaign is recorded more extensively on the inner northwest panel of the first court. It is possible, but not generally believed, that the dates are only those of the inscriptions and both refer to the same campaign. In Ramesses' Year 8, the Nine Bows appear again as a "conspiracy in their isles". This time, they are revealed unquestionably as Sea Peoples: the Peleset,
Tjeker The Tjeker or Tjekker were one of the Sea Peoples The Sea Peoples are a purported seafaring confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action ...
, Shekelesh,
Denyen The Denyen is purported to be one of the groups constituting the Sea Peoples The Sea Peoples are a purported seafaring confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united fo ...
and Weshesh, which are classified as "foreign countries" in the inscription. They camped in Amor and sent a fleet to the Nile. The pharaoh was once more waiting for them. He had built a fleet especially for the occasion, hid it in the Nile's mouths and posted coast watchers. The enemy fleet was ambushed there, their ships overturned, and the men dragged up on shore and executed ad hoc. The land army was also routed within Egyptian controlled territory. Additional information is given in the relief on the outer side of the east wall. This
land battle Ground warfare or land warfare is the process of military operations eventuating in combat that takes place predominantly on the battlespace land surface of the Earth, planet. Land warfare is categorized by the use of large numbers of combat per ...
occurred in the vicinity of
DjahyDjahi, Djahy or Tjahi (Egyptian: ḏhj, ḏꜣhy) was the Egyptian Egyptian describes something of, from, or related to Egypt. Egyptian or Egyptians may refer to: Nations and ethnic groups * Egyptians, a national group in North Africa ** Egyptian ...
against "the northern countries". When it was over, several chiefs were captive: of , and
Shasu The Shasu ( from Egyptian ''šꜣsw'', probably pronounced ''Shaswe'') were Semitic Semitic most commonly refers to the Semitic languages, a name used since the 1770s to refer to the language family currently present in West Asia, North and East ...

Shasu
among the "land peoples" and the
Tjeker The Tjeker or Tjekker were one of the Sea Peoples The Sea Peoples are a purported seafaring confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action ...
, "
Sherden The Sherden (Egyptian language, Egyptian: ''šrdn'', ''šꜣrdꜣnꜣ'' or ''šꜣrdynꜣ'', Ugaritic: ''šrdnn(m)'' and ''trtn(m)'', possibly Akkadian language, Akkadian: ''še–er–ta–an–nu''; also glossed “Shardana” or “Sherdanu”) a ...
of the sea", " Teresh of the sea" and Peleset or
Philistines The Philistines were an ancient people who lived on the south coast of Canaan A 1692 map of Canaan, by Philip Lea Canaan (; Northwest Semitic Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of th ...
. The campaign of Year 12 is attested by the Südstele found on the south side of the temple. It mentions the
Tjeker The Tjeker or Tjekker were one of the Sea Peoples The Sea Peoples are a purported seafaring confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action ...
, Peleset,
Denyen The Denyen is purported to be one of the groups constituting the Sea Peoples The Sea Peoples are a purported seafaring confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united fo ...
, Weshesh and Shekelesh. Papyrus Harris I of the period, found behind the temple, suggests a wider campaign against the Sea Peoples but does not mention the date. In it, the persona of Ramses III says, "I slew the Denyen (D'-yn-yw-n) in their isles" and "burned" the Tjeker and Peleset, implying a maritime raid of his own. He also captured some Sherden and Weshesh "of the sea" and settled them in Egypt. As he is called the "Ruler of Nine Bows" in the relief of the east side, these events probably happened in Year 8; i.e. the Pharaoh would have used the victorious fleet for some punitive expeditions elsewhere in the Mediterranean. The Rhetorical Stela to
Ramesses III Usermaatre Meryamun Ramesses III (also written Ramses and Rameses) was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt, Twentieth Dynasty in Ancient Egypt. He is thought to have reigned from 26 March 1186 to 15 April 1155 BC and is considered ...
, Chapel C, Deir el-Medina records a similar narrative.


Onomasticon of Amenope

The Onomasticon of Amenope, or Amenemipit (amen-em-apt), gives slight credence to the idea that the Ramesside kings settled the Sea Peoples in Canaan. Dated to about 1100 BCE (at the end of the 22nd dynasty) this document simply lists names. After six place names, four of which were in Philistia, the scribe lists the Sherden (Line 268), the Tjeker (Line 269) and the Peleset (Line 270), who might be presumed to occupy those cities. The Story of Wenamun on a papyrus of the same cache also places the Tjeker in Tel Dor, Dor at that time. The fact that the Biblical maritime Tribe of Dan was initially located between the Philistines and the Tjekker, has prompted some to suggest that they may have originally been Denyen. Sherden seem to have been settled around Tel Megiddo, Megiddo and in the Jordan Valley (Middle East), Jordan Valley, and Weshwesh (connected by some with the Biblical tribe of Asher) may have been settled further north.


Other documentary records


Egyptian single-name sources

Other Egyptian sources refer to one of the individual groups without reference to any of the other groups. The Amarna letters, around the mid-14th century BCE, including four relating to the Sea Peoples: * Amarna letter EA 151, EA 151 refers to the Denyen, in a passing reference to the death of their king; * Amarna letter EA 38, EA 38 refers to the Lukka, who are being accused of attacking the Egyptians in conjunction with the Alashiyans (Cyprus, Cypriotes), with the latter having stated that the Lukka were seizing their villages. * Amarna letter EA 81, EA 81, Amarna letter EA 122, EA 122 and Amarna letter EA 133, EA 133 refer to the Sherden. The letters at one point refer to a Sherden man as an apparent renegade mercenary, and at another point to three Sherden who are slain by an Egyptian overseer. Padiiset's Statue refers to the Peleset, the Cairo ColumnBreasted (1906), Vol III, §593 / p.252: "in their isles" and "of the sea" refers to the Shekelesh, the Story of Wenamun refers to the Tjekker, and 13 further Egyptian sources refer to the Sherden.


Byblos

The earliest ethnic group later considered among the Sea Peoples is believed to be attested in Egyptian hieroglyphs on the Abishemu obelisk found in the Temple of the Obelisks at Byblos by Maurice Dunand. The inscription mentions kwkwn son of rwqq- (or kukun son of luqq), transliteration, transliterated as Caucones, Kukunnis, son of Lukka, "the Lycian". The date is given variously as 2000 or 1700 BCE


Ugarit

Some Sea Peoples appear in four of the Ugaritic texts, the last three of which seem to foreshadow the destruction of the city around 1180 BCE. The letters are therefore dated to the early 12th century. The last king of Ugarit was Ammurapi ( 1191–1182 BCE), who, throughout this correspondence, is quite a young man. * RS 34.129, the earliest letter, found on the south side of the city, from "the Great King", presumably Suppiluliuma II of the
Hittites The Hittites () were an Anatolian people who played an important role in establishing first a kingdom in Kussara before 1750 BC, then the Kanesh or Nesha kingdom (c. 1750–1650 BC), and next an empire centered on Hattusa Hattusa (also ...

Hittites
, to the prefect of the city. He says that he ordered the king of Ugarit to send him Ibnadushu for questioning, but the king was too immature to respond. He, therefore, wants the prefect to send the man, whom he promises to return. What this language implies about the relationship of the Hittite empire to Ugarit is a matter of interpretation. Ibnadushu had been kidnapped by and had resided among a people of Shikala, probably the Shekelesh, "who lived on ships". The letter is generally interpreted as an interest in military intelligence by the king. * RS L 1, RS 20.238 and RS 20.18, are a set from the Rap'anu Archive between a slightly older Ammurapi, now handling his own affairs, and Eshuwara, the grand supervisor of Alasiya. Evidently, Ammurapi had informed Eshuwara, that an enemy fleet of 20 ships had been spotted at sea. Eshuwara wrote back and inquired about the location of Ammurapi's own forces. Eshuwara also noted that he would like to know where the enemy fleet of 20 ships are now located. Unfortunately for both Ugarit and Alasiya, neither kingdom was able to fend off the Sea People's onslaught, and both were ultimately destroyed. A letter by Ammurapi (RS 18.147) to the king of Alasiya—which was in fact a response to an appeal for assistance by the latter—has been found by archaeologists. In it, Ammurapi describes the desperate plight facing Ugarit. Ammurapi, in turn, appealed for aid from the viceroy of Carchemish, which actually survived the Sea People's onslaught; King Kuzi-Teshub I, who was the son of Talmi-Teshub—a direct contemporary of the last ruling Hittite king, Suppiluliuma II—is attested in power there, running a mini-empire which stretched from "Southeast Asia Minor, North Syria ... [to] the west bend of the Euphrates" from c. 1175 BCE to 990 BCE Its viceroy could only offer some words of advice for Ammurapi.


Hypotheses about origins

A number of hypotheses concerning the origins, identities and motives of the Sea Peoples described in the records have been formulated. They are not necessarily alternative or contradictory hypotheses about the Sea Peoples; any or all might be mainly or partly true.


Regional migration historical context

The Linear B Tablets of Pylos in the Late Bronze Age in the
Aegean Aegean may refer to: *Aegean Sea *Aegean Islands *Aegean Region (geographical), Turkey *Aegean Region (statistical), Turkey *Aegean civilizations *Aegean languages, a group of ancient languages and proposed language family *Aegean Sea (theme), a n ...

Aegean
demonstrate increased slave raiding and the spread of mercenaries and migratory peoples and their subsequent resettlement. Despite this, 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. Evidence shows that the identities and motives of these peoples were known to the Egyptians. In fact, many had sought employment with the Egyptians or were in a diplomatic relationship for a few centuries before the
Late Bronze Age collapse The Late Bronze Age collapse was a transition period in a large area covering much of Southeast Europe, West Asia and North Africa North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly ac ...
. For example, select groups, or members of groups, of the Sea People, such as the Sherden or Shardana, were used as mercenaries by Egyptian Pharaohs such as
Ramesses II Ramesses II ( egy, rꜥ-ms-sw meaning "Ra is the one who bore him", ''Rīʿa-məsī-sū'', ; ) was the third pharaoh Pharaoh ( , ; cop, , Pǝrro) is the common title now used for the monarch A monarch is a head of state ...
. Prior to the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt (from the 15th century BCE), names of Semitic languages, Semitic-speaking, cattle-raising pastoralism, pastoral nomads of the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
appear, replacing previous Egyptian concern with the Hurrianised ''prw'' ('Apiru or Habiru). These were called the ''š3sw'' (
Shasu The Shasu ( from Egyptian ''šꜣsw'', probably pronounced ''Shaswe'') were Semitic Semitic most commonly refers to the Semitic languages, a name used since the 1770s to refer to the language family currently present in West Asia, North and East ...

Shasu
), meaning "those who move on foot". e.g. the Shasu#Shasu of Yhw, Shasu of ''Yhw''. Nancy Sandars uses the analogous name "land peoples". Contemporary Assyrian records refer to them as ''Ahlamu, Ahhlamu'' or Wanderers. They were not part of the Egyptian list of Sea Peoples, and were later referred to as Aramaeans. Some people, such as the Lukka, were included in both categories of land and sea people.


Philistine hypothesis

The archaeological evidence from the southern coastal plain of ancient Canaan, termed Philistia in the Hebrew Bible, indicates a disruption of the Canaanite culture that existed during the Late Bronze Age and its replacement (with some integration) by a culture with a possibly foreign (mainly Aegean civilization, Aegean) origin. This includes Mycenaean pottery, distinct pottery, which at first belongs to the Helladic, Mycenaean IIIC tradition (albeit of local manufacture) and gradually transforms into uniquely Philistine pottery. Mazar says: Sandars, however, does not take this point of view but says: Artifacts of the Philistine culture are found at numerous sites, in particular in the excavations of the five main cities of the Philistines: the Pentapolis of
Ashkelon Ashkelon or Ashqelon (; he, , ), also known as Ascalon (; grc-gre, Ἀσκάλων, ''Askálōn''; ar, عَسْقَلَان, '), is a coastal city in the Southern District of Israel on the Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea ...
, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath (city), Gath, and
Gaza Gaza may refer to: Places Palestine * Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea ** Gaza City, a city in the Gaza Strip ** Gaza Governorate, a governorate in the Gaza Strip United States * Gaza, Iowa, an ...
. Some scholars (e.g. S. Sherratt, Drews, etc.) have challenged the theory that the Philistine culture is an immigrant culture, claiming instead that they are an ''in situ'' development of the Canaanite culture, but others argue for the immigrant hypothesis; for example, T. Dothan and Barako. Trude and Moshe Dothan suggest that the later Philistine settlements in the Levant were unoccupied for nearly 30 years between their destruction and resettlement by the Philistines, whose Helladic IIICb pottery also shows Egyptian influences. With the advent of Archaeogenetics, the Aegean hypothesis regarding the origin of the Philistines has received a major boost. A study by Michal Feldman and colleagues that carried out genomic testing of 10 Bronze Age and Iron Age individuals from
Ashkelon Ashkelon or Ashqelon (; he, , ), also known as Ascalon (; grc-gre, Ἀσκάλων, ''Askálōn''; ar, عَسْقَلَان, '), is a coastal city in the Southern District of Israel on the Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea ...
, reported that the early Iron Age population was genetically distinct from both late Bronze Age and late Iron Age tested individuals as a result of transient European-related admixture. The authors concluded that a migration event occurred during the Bronze to Iron Age transition in Ashkelon from an Aegean-related source, even though this migration did not leave a long-lasting genetic signature.


Minoan hypothesis

Two of the peoples who settled in the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
had traditions that may connect them to
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern Modern may refer to: History *Modern history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology ...

Crete
: the
Tjeker The Tjeker or Tjekker were one of the Sea Peoples The Sea Peoples are a purported seafaring confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action ...
and the Peleset. The Tjeker may have left Crete to settle in
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
, and left there to settle Tel Dor, Dor. According to the Old Testament, the Israelite God brought the Philistines out of Caphtor. The mainstream of Biblical and classical scholarship accepts ''Caphtor'' to refer to Crete, but there are alternative minority theories. Crete at the time was populated by peoples speaking many languages, among which were Mycenaean Greek and Eteocretan, the descendant of the language of the Minoans. It is possible, but by no means certain, that these two peoples spoke Eteocretan. Recent examinations of the Minoan eruption, eruption of the Santorini volcano estimate its occurrence at between 1660 and 1613 BCE, centuries before the first appearances of the Sea Peoples in Egypt. The eruption is thus unlikely to be connected to the Sea Peoples.


Greek migrational hypothesis

The identifications of
Denyen The Denyen is purported to be one of the groups constituting the Sea Peoples The Sea Peoples are a purported seafaring confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united fo ...
with the Greek Danaans and Ekwesh with the Greek Achaeans (Homer), Achaeans are long-standing issues in Bronze Age scholarship, whether Greek, Hittite or Biblical, especially as they lived "in the isles". The Greek identification of the Ekwesh is considered especially problematic as this group was clearly described as Circumcision, circumcised by the Egyptians, and according to Manuel Robbins: "Hardly anyone thinks that the Greeks of the Bronze Age were circumcised ..." Michael Wood (historian), Michael Wood described the hypothetical role of the Greeks (who have already been proposed as the identity of the Philistines above):Ch. 7, "The Peoples of the Sea." Wood would also include the
Sherden The Sherden (Egyptian language, Egyptian: ''šrdn'', ''šꜣrdꜣnꜣ'' or ''šꜣrdynꜣ'', Ugaritic: ''šrdnn(m)'' and ''trtn(m)'', possibly Akkadian language, Akkadian: ''še–er–ta–an–nu''; also glossed “Shardana” or “Sherdanu”) a ...
and Shekelesh, pointing out that "there were migrations of Greek-speaking peoples to the same place [Sardinia and Sicily] at this time." He is careful to point out that the Greeks would have been only one element among many that comprised the sea peoples. Furthermore, the proportion of Greeks must have been relatively small. His major hypothesis is that the Trojan War was fought against Troy VI and Troy VIIa, the candidate of Carl Blegen, and that Troy was sacked by those now identified as Greek Sea Peoples. He suggests that Odysseus' assumed identity as a wandering Cretan coming home from the Trojan War, who fights in Egypt and serves there after being captured, "remembers" the campaign of Year 8 of Ramses III, described above. He points out also that places destroyed on
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially called the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or politi ...

Cyprus
at the time (such as Kition) were rebuilt by a new Greek-speaking population. Several scholars have proposed that the Sea People were certainly Mycenaean Greeks.


Trojan hypothesis

The possibility that the Teresh were connected on the one hand with the Tyrrhenians, believed to be an Etruscan civilization, Etruscan-related culture, and on the other with Taruisa, a Hittite name possibly referring to Troy, has been speculated. The Roman poet Virgil depicts Aeneas as escaping the fall of Troy by coming to Latium to found a line descending to Romulus, first king of Rome. Considering that
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
n connections have been identified for other Sea Peoples, such as the
Tjeker The Tjeker or Tjekker were one of the Sea Peoples The Sea Peoples are a purported seafaring confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action ...
and the Lukka, Eberhard Zangger puts together an Anatolian hypothesis, but it is not accepted for archaeological, linguistic, anthropological and genetic reasons. Virgili's account refers to the foundation of Rome, and not to the Etruscans, and is not believed to contain true events. Furthermore, there is no archaeological or linguistic evidence of a migration in the late Bronze Age from Anatolia to Etruria. and the Etruscan language, as well as all the languages of the Tyrrhenian family, considered Pre-Indo-European languages, Pre-Indo-European and Paleo-European languages, Paleo-European, belongs to a completely different family from the Anatolian languages, Anatolian one which is Indo-European. Moreover, both recent studies of anthropology and genetics have argued in favor of the indigenous origin of the Etruscans and against the hypothesis of the eastern origin.


Mycenaean warfare hypothesis

This theory suggests that the Sea Peoples were populations from the city-states of the Greek Mycenaean Greece, Mycenaean civilization, who destroyed each other in a disastrous series of conflicts lasting several decades. There would have been few or no external invaders and just a few excursions outside the Greek-speaking part of the Aegean civilization. Archaeological evidence indicates that many fortified sites of the Greek domain were destroyed in the late 13th and early 12th century BCE, which was understood in the mid-20th century to have been simultaneous or nearly so and was attributed to the Dorian invasion championed by Carl Blegen of the University of Cincinnati. He believed Mycenaean Pylos was burned during an amphibious raid by warriors from the north (Dorians). Subsequent critical analysis focused on the fact that the destructions were not simultaneous and that all the evidence of Dorians comes from later times. John Chadwick championed a Sea Peoples hypothesis, which asserted that, since the Pylians had retreated to the northeast, the attack must have come from the southwest, the Sea Peoples being, in his view, the most likely candidates. He suggests that they were based in
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
and, although doubting that the Mycenaeans would have called themselves "Achaeans", speculates that "it is very tempting to bring them into connexion." He does not assign a Greek identity to all of the Sea Peoples. Considering the turbulence between and within the great families of the Mycenaean city-states in Greek mythology, the hypothesis that the Mycenaeans destroyed themselves is long-standing and finds support by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, who theorized: Although some advocates of the Philistine or Greek migration hypotheses identify all the Mycenaeans or Sea Peoples as ethnically Greek, John Chadwick (founder, with Michael Ventris, of Linear B studies) adopts instead the multiple ethnicity view.


Nuragic and Italian peoples hypotheses

Some archeologists believe that the Sherden are identifiable with the Sardinians from the Nuragic civilization, Nuragic era. Theories of the possible connections between the
Sherden The Sherden (Egyptian language, Egyptian: ''šrdn'', ''šꜣrdꜣnꜣ'' or ''šꜣrdynꜣ'', Ugaritic: ''šrdnn(m)'' and ''trtn(m)'', possibly Akkadian language, Akkadian: ''še–er–ta–an–nu''; also glossed “Shardana” or “Sherdanu”) a ...
to Sardinia, Shekelesh to Sicily, and Teresh to Tyrrhenians, even though long-standing, are based on onomastics, onomastic similarities. Nuragic pottery of domestic use has been found at Pyla Kokkinokremos, a fortified settlement in Cyprus, during the 2010 and 2017 excavations. The site is dated to the period between the 13th and 12th centuries BCE, that of the Sea Peoples' invasions. This find has led archaeologist Vassos Karageorghis to identify the Nuragic Sardinians with the Sherden, one of the Sea Peoples. According to him, the Sherden went first to Crete and from there they joined the Cretans in an eastward expedition to Cyprus. The Nuragic bronze statuettes, a great collection of Nuragic sculptures, includes a great number of horned helmet warriors wearing a similar skirt to the Sherdens' and a round shield; although they had been dated for a long time to the 10th or 9th century BCE, recent discoveries suggest that their production started around the 13th century BCE. Swords identical to those of the Sherden have been found in Sardinia, dating back to 1650 BCE The self-name of the Etruscans, ''Rasna'', does not lend itself to the Tyrrhenian derivation, although it has been suggested that this was itself derived from an earlier form ''T'Rasna''. The Etruscan civilization has been studied, and Etruscan language, the language partly deciphered. It has variants and representatives in Lemnos stele, Aegean inscriptions, but these may well be from travelers or colonists of Etruscans during their seafaring period before Rome destroyed their power. There is no definitive archaeological evidence. About all that can be said for certain is that Helladic period, Mycenaean IIIC pottery was widespread around the Mediterranean in areas associated with Sea Peoples and its introduction at various places is often associated with cultural change, violent or gradual. An old theory is that the Sherden and Shekelesh brought those names with them to Sardinia and Sicily, "perhaps not operating from those great islands but moving toward them", and this is still accepted by Eric Cline and by Trevor Bryce, who explains that some of the Sea Peoples sprang out of the collapsing Hittite empire. Giovanni Ugas believes that the Sherden originated in Sardinia, and his studies have been echoed by Sebastiano Tusa, in his last book, and by Carlos Roberto Zorea, from the Complutense University of Madrid.


Anatolian famine hypothesis

A famous passage from Herodotus portrays the wandering and migration of Lydians from
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
because of famine: However, the 1st-century BC historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a Greek living in Rome, dismissed many of the ancient theories of other Greek historians and postulated that the Etruscans were indigenous people who had always lived in Etruria and were different from the Lydians. Dionysius noted that the 5th-century historian Xanthus of Lydia, who was originally from Sardis and was regarded as an important source and authority for the history of Lydia, never suggested a Lydian origin of the Etruscans and never named Tyrrhenus as a ruler of the Lydians. Tablet RS 18.38 from
Ugarit Ugarit (; uga, 𐎜𐎂𐎗𐎚, ''ʼUgart''; ar, أُوغَارِيت ''Ūġārīt'' or ''Ūǧārīt''; he, אוּגָרִית ''Ugarit'') was an ancient port city in northern Syria, in the outskirts of modern Latakia, discovered by accident ...

Ugarit
also mentions grain to the Hittites, suggesting a long period of famine, connected further, in the full theory, to drought. Barry Weiss, using the Palmer Drought Index for 35 Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern weather stations, showed that a drought of the kinds that persisted from January 1972 would have affected all of the sites associated with the Late Bronze Age collapse. Drought could have easily precipitated or hastened socio-economic problems and led to wars. More recently, Brian Fagan has shown how mid-winter storms from the Atlantic were diverted to travel north of the Pyrenees and the Alps, bringing wetter conditions to Central Europe, but drought to the Eastern Mediterranean. More recent paleoclimatology, paleoclimatological research has also shown climatic disruption and increasing aridity in the Eastern Mediterranean, associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation at this time (See ''Bronze Age Collapse'').


Invader hypothesis

The term "invasion" is used generally in the literature concerning the period to mean the documented attacks, implying that the aggressors were external to the eastern Mediterranean, though often hypothesized to be from the wider Aegean world. An origin outside the Aegean also has been proposed, as in this example by Michael Grant (author), Michael Grant: "There was a gigantic series of migratory waves, extending all the way from the Danube valley to the plains of China."Grant, ''The Ancient Mediterranean'', page 79. Such a comprehensive movement is associated with more than one people or culture; instead, it was a "disturbance", according to Finley:Finley, page 58. If different times are allowed on the Danube, they are not in the Aegean: "all this destruction must be dated to the same period about 1200 [BCE]." The movements of the hypothetical Dorian Invasion, the attacks of the Sea Peoples, the formation of Philistine kingdoms in the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
and the fall of the
Hittite Hittite may refer to: * Hittites, ancient Anatolian people ** Hittite language, the earliest-attested Indo-European language ** Hittite grammar ** Hittite phonology ** Hittite cuneiform ** Hittite inscriptions ** Hittite laws ** Hittite religion ** ...

Hittite
Empire were associated and compressed by Finley into the 1200 BCE window. Robert Drews presents a map showing the destruction sites of 47 fortified major settlements, which he terms "Major Sites Destroyed in the Catastrophe". They are concentrated in the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
, with some in Greece and
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
.


See also

* Beder (ancient ruler) * Hyksos * Meryey * Thalassocracy


References


Citations


Notes


Sources


Primary sources: Early publications of the theory

* * * * * * * *


Secondary sources

* Mainz. *Beckman, Gary, "Hittite Chronology", ''Akkadica'', 119/120 (2000). * Volume II on the 19th Dynasty is available for download from Google Books. * * * * * * * * * * 3 vols. * * * * * * * * * * * * ** Chapter 16: Vagnetti, Lucia (2000)
Western Mediterranean overview: Peninsular Italy, Sicily and Sardinia at the time of the Sea peoples
* * * * * * * * * * * *


External links

* Eric H. Cline, Cline, Eric
''1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed''
[video], recorded lecture, 2016, 1h10'17.
Philistine Kin Found in Early Israel, Adam Zertal, BAR 28:03, May/Jun 2002.
a course at Penn State *
Egyptians, Canaanites, and Philistines in the Period of the Emergence of Early Israel
', paper by Itamar Singer at the UCLA Near Eastern Languages & Culture site

, article by Eberhard Zangger in ''Saudi Aramco World'', Volume 46, Number 3, May/June 1995
PlosOne dating the Sea People destruction of the Levant to 1192–90 BCE


, article by I Cornelius in ''Military History Journal'', Vol. 7., No. 4 of the South African Military History Society

, Archaeological web site related to Greek Bronze Age and Sea Peoples weaponry and warfare {{Authority control Sea Peoples, 1850s neologisms Ancient Egypt Ancient Italian history Ancient Levant Ancient peoples Ancient pirates History of the Mediterranean Indo-European history Indo-European warfare Invasions of Egypt Iron Age Anatolia Iron Age Greece Late Bronze Age collapse