The Bronze Age was a period of early human civilization known for its advancements in culture, society, language, architecture, ancient warfare, and trade. The old world that experienced the Bronze Age was across the Mediterranean Sea and the Near East.
The Bronze Age was coined from its use of bronze as a metal in this period, which was detrimental to society and trade. Archaeological sites such as the Pyramids of Giza and human advancements like the wheel and writing scripts were created during this timeframe.
Unfortunately, the serenity surrounding the Bronze Age did not last, as a catastrophic chain of events led to an ancient world-shifting collapse that led to the end of several civilizations that took humanity several hundred years to recover from.
What was the Late Bronze Age Collapse?
The Late Bronze Age Collapse was an ancient world societal collapse that affected various ancient civilizations that went extinct from the cataclysm. Occurring sometime between 1250 BC to 1150 BC, prominent ancient cities were destroyed and abandoned, trade routes were severed, and mass death was frequent.
The Hittites, Trojans, and Minoans would suffer from the devastation which destroyed their civilizations. The ever-mysterious anthropological research of the Sea Peoples, a marauding confederation of various tribes whose people plundered and attacked various ancient settlements, is still discussed and researched.
Natural Disasters, Climate Change, Drought, and Plague
Multiple factors played a role in the era’s collapse. Natural disasters, climate change (that caused drought and famine), internal conflicts, invasions, and loss of trade routes all broke apart the Bronze Age.
During the period’s decline, natural disasters, such as earthquakes, became the primary starting point of the collapse. Earthquakes, such as the Minoan Eruption, caused untold devastation to their civilization after a cataclysmic volcano eruption of the Aegean isle of Thera (now modern-day Santorini).
The Minoan Eruption of Thera could not be contained. A subsequent great tsunami would destroy Minoan settlements throughout the region, particularly in Crete, where the Minoans established their capital and cultural center. The destruction of the Minoan civilization negatively affected the Egyptians, who were a top trading and artistic partner to them.
Climate change and droughts would exacerbate the crisis erupting in the Bronze Age. With crop failures in the Levant, Anatolia, and Cyprus, civilizations became desperate, and their people began to starve and fight for resources. The Soreq Cave in modern-day Israel would note the unprecedented minimal amounts of rainfall for several dozen years that contributed to droughts and crop failures.
The Hittites suffered from a severe plague known as tularemia. The epidemic would lead to famine and disorder as the elite hoarded supplies and food from the local population.
Civil Strife, Trade, and War
Rebellions and class and social uprisings took place in the era of the collapse. The first documented labor strike in history occurred in the New Kingdom of Egypt. Workers led party strikes against Ramesses III when he failed to repay tomb builders for their contracted work.
Civilians in the Hittite Empire in Asia Minor revolted against the elite from a lack of resources, droughts, and famine. Civil uprisings were also the case in some areas of Mycenaean Greece settlements. Both empires showed significant damage in food storage in ancient cities, which meant some civil uprisings took place. As rebellions occurred, new societies and powers emerged from the old empires, such as the Assyrians, who broke free from the Sumerians and Hittites.
The societies of the Late Bronze Age Collapse relied on a vast network of trade systems, including the valuable bronze metal. Ironically, the name bronze would be the title of the collapse. Bronze metal was beneficial in this period; it was used for weapons, palaces, chariots, ships, homes, and craftsmanship. Without bronze, the only other valuable metal at the time was tin, which was extremely rare as Afghanistan held most of its mineral fields.
When bronze became scarce, the old empires could not supply their army with weapons, and artisans could not create constant metal for trade. It became a disaster for the ancient economies of the societies of that period. As the invasions took place, primarily by the Sea Peoples, trade routes were cut off as civilizations went into chaos and their sites were abandoned. Egypt suffered greatly, and they could no longer supply food rations to tomb and pyramid workers, leading to the fracturing of the state.
When droughts and famine occurred during the collapse, invasions became more frequent. It was mainly in the case of the Sea Peoples, whose migrations and invasions were most likely due to national disasters in their lands, as they brought entire families along the way during their pillaging. Ugarit, Cyprus, and Ancient Syrian cities such as Aleppo and Levantine coastal cities were the most affected by the raids of the Sea Peoples.
Ugarit’s society was destroyed in the ensuing chaos. Homer’s epic, the Iliad, which highlighted the Greek-Trojan War, occurred around the collapse. Archaeologists have pinpointed the ancient city of Troy off the coast of modern-day Turkey in the upper west of Asia Minor in the Bithynia region.
The Trojan War was a factor in the Trojans’ destruction and the Mycenaean civilization. Their borders were left open as most of the manpower was in Troy, but it was not the Sea Peoples who were responsible for their collapse, but instead their northern Dorian neighbors. The Dorians noticed a lack of security and invaded and sacked their ancient cities.
Archaeologists have also examined that some Hittite sites were violently destroyed. It was assumed the Sea Peoples did this, but it was hypothesized that the Thracians were responsible. Out of the violent invasions during the collapse, only the New Egyptian Kingdom, Assyrians, Phoenicians, and Israelites survived the destruction with most of their society intact, but at a high cost.
Resource Wars Could Become Prominent in the Future
Turkey has brought Greece close to war by constantly violating their Economic Exclusive Zone with illegal offshore drilling. China has made enemies out of the Philippines and Vietnam over the creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea over resources, and the US continues to back brutal autocrats in the Middle East in return for lucrative gas and oil bargains.
With nations conflicting over resources in an ever-changing environment, correlations of the factors in the Late Bronze Age Collapse could become more apparent. One of the world’s first large-scale cataclysms over dwindling resources could once again haunt human civilization one day if we do not learn from the mistakes of the past.