Crisis in Context: The End of the Late Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean

Here we present the ‘Abstract‘ of the corresponding paper by A. Bernard Knapp and Sturt W. Manning.


Explanations for the Late Bronze Age crisis and collapse in the eastern Mediterranean are legion: migrations, predations by external forces, political struggles within dominant polities or system collapse among them, inequalities between centers and peripheries, climatic change and natural disasters, disease/plague. There has never been any overarching explanation to account for all the changes within and beyond the eastern Mediterranean, some of which occurred at different times from the mid to late 13th throughout the 12th centuries B.C.E. The ambiguity of the evidence—material, textual, climatic, chronological—and the differing contexts involved across the central-eastern Mediterranean make it difficult to disentangle background noise from boundary conditions and to distinguish cause from effect. Can we identify the protagonists of the crisis and related events? How useful are recent explanations that focus on climate and/or chronology in providing a better understanding of the crisis? This article reviews the current state of the archaeological and historical evidence and considers the coherence of climatic explanations and overprecise chronologies in attempting to place the “crisis” in context. There is no final solution: the human-induced Late Bronze Age “collapse” presents multiple material, social, and cultural realities that demand continuing, and collaborative, archaeological, historical, and scientific attention and interpretation.



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