Late Bronze Age
The Sea Peoples is the name given by modern scholarship to a group of allies who caused havoc among the nations of the Eastern Mediterranean including Egypt, which they invaded at least twice, in the 2nd millennium BC. The phrase ‘Sea Peoples’ was never used in ancient records, in fact, the coining of the term in 1855 is now generally attributed to French Egyptologist, Emmanuel de Rougé who used the term peuples de la mer (literally “peoples of the sea”) in a description of reliefs at Medinet Habu. The phrase was later popularized by another French Egyptologist, Gaston Maspero (1846-1916). Eckart Kahlhofer has recently suggested that even earlier, J. F. Champollion (1790–1832) employed an equivalent term gens navales to describe the occupants of the invading swan-necked boats.
Also related to the carvings at Medinet Habu is an interesting study of the Sea Peoples’ ships depicted there, by the nautical archaeologist Professor Andrea Salimbetti’s website has a lengthy paper on Aegean Bronze Age ships(al) as well as the Sea Peoples(am).
Cyprian Broodbank in The Making of the Middle Sea  argues that the Sea People “never actually existed as a single people. Instead, small roving bands were a symptom of the collapse, not the cause, and they were blown out of proportion by Egyptian propagandists working for Ramasses III.” (ai)
Broodbank is a co-author with Giulio Lucarini of a paper(av) about Mediterranean Africa that “draws on a new surge in data to present the first up-to-date interpretative synthesis of this region’s archaeology from the start of the Holocene until the threshold of the Iron Age (9600–1000 bc).”
One website(h) describes the Sea People as groups of dispossessed raiders driven by hunger following crop failures resulting from climate change. The same idea is expanded on by Lu Paradise in an extensive article(v).
A different view was expressed by the Egyptologist Robert Anderson who commented “It would seem that, rather than bands of plunderers, the Sea People were probably part of a great migration of displaced people. The migration was most likely the result of widespread crop failures and famine.”(d)
Evidence is mounting that climate change played a significant part in the Late Bronze Age collapse of civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean region. There is a school of thought that believes that the widespread societal disintegration was more the result of environmental factors rather than the depredations of the Sea Peoples(ag).
The Sea Peoples’ exact origin continues to be a matter of intense speculation(ad). The debate regarding their true identity has been ongoing for a long time and will probably continue as long as the chronologies of the Middle East are not fully harmonized to the satisfaction of most. There is, however, some agreement that the Sea Peoples mounted two separate invasion attempts on Egypt around 1208 & 1176 BC (Facchetti & Negri).
Sea Peoples from the Adriatic
“While most of the Sea Peoples came from either the Aegean or the wider Mediterranean, many historians argue that groups from the Adriatic Sea also joined the migration. Specifically, Austrian historian Fritz Schachermeyr asserted in 1982 that the Sherden and Shekelesh were originally from the Adriatic and had connections to the ancient Illyrians.
Although Schachermeyr’s theory is not commonly held among students of the Sea Peoples, there are those who continue to believe that a famine in the Balkans drove several tribes, including the Illyrians, to migrate over land and over water(ba).”
Mycenaean Sea Peoples
The Oxford Companion to the Bible  is certain that the Sea Peoples were originally Mycenaean, who moved south, following the collapse of their civilisation at the end of the Late Bronze Age. They were repelled by the Egyptians and then moved on to the Levant where they later became known as the Philistines. A paper(ab) that also links the Philistines with the Sea Peoples from a biblical perspective is available.
Shelley Wachsmann(aj), also offers evidence that at least some Mycenaeans were involved with the Sea Peoples(ak).
There is a claim that the Sea Peoples also attacked Mycenaean Greece on two occasions and that Athens survived both(ae). Contrast that with the contention that there was a Mycenaean group within the Sea Peoples. The confusion surrounding the Sea Peoples is exemplified by the response to a question on the quora.com website(af).
Sea Peoples from Anatolia (Northern Levant)
Erick Wright, formerly a regular contributor to the now-defunct Atlantis Rising forums has concluded(b) that Atlantis was located in what today is Southern Turkey and that Atlanteans were among the Sea Peoples who attacked Egypt in 1200 BC. Another Atlantis Rising forum(e) on the subject is also worth a look as is another illustrated site(f) which includes a map of the homelands of the Sea Peoples.
The historian, Sanford Hoist, published a paper in which he argued(j) for an Anatolian origin for the Sea Peoples together with other groups such as the Phoenicians.
The most recent addition to our knowledge of the Sea Peoples appears to be imminent with the publication of a paper in the December 2017 issue of the journal Proceedings of the Dutch Archaeological and Historical Society. Written by Frederik Woudhuizen and Eberhard Zangger, the authors offer a translation of a 3200-year-old inscription That may refer to the Sea Peoples and link them with western Turkey. You can read more, now, on the Livescience website(z). In a 2006 paper(ac), The Ethnicity of the Sea Peoples, Woudhuizen included some groups from the Central Mediterranean as part of the Sea Peoples.
Erich Fred Legner offers an extensive paper(au) on the diversity of the Sea Peoples. Brian Janeway explored the idea that the Sea Peoples originated in the Northern Levant(aw).
Sea Peoples from Southern Levant (Modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel & Palestine)
Joseph Morris in his thesis(m) presented to the Classics Department of Florida State University in 2006 defined the Sea Peoples as “a coalition consisting of the indigenous populations of Syria-Palestine led by the neo-Hittite states.”
Eric Cline has noted in 1117 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed  that the only member of the Sea Peoples alliance whose identity has been ‘firmly established’ is that of the Peleset who are accepted as Philistines. He also comments that identifying the Shekelesh with Sicily and the Shardana with Sardinia is based in part on the ‘consonantal similarities’ [p.4]. In a 2016 article, Cline wrote, “As for what role the Sea Peoples actually played in the destruction of civilizations around 1200 BCE and shortly thereafter, I personally think that they have been set up as a scapegoat, because of the Egyptian inscriptions, and that they were as much victims as oppressors. I doubt that they were responsible for all of the destructions that we blame on them and I think that they are only one of the many factors that together contributed to a “perfect storm” that ended the Bronze Age. These stressors, as they are sometimes called, probably also included drought, famine, earthquakes, and possible internal rebellions in addition to external invaders, all of which combined to cause a systems collapse.” (az)
Sea Peoples or North Sea Peoples?
Until the middle of the 20th century, there was a consensus that the Sea Peoples originated in the Mediterranean region. That is until Jürgen Spanuth published his claim that Atlantis had been located in the North Sea and equated the Atlanteans with the Sea Peoples. This radical idea, with some variations, was adopted by several commentators and unsurprisingly, many were from Northern Europe. Spanuth referred to them as the North Sea Peoples  and offered a range of evidence from the Egyptian inscriptions at Medinet Habu to support this idea. This evidence includes a variety of features that Egyptians used to portray the Sea Peoples such as types of swords, the shape of ships, shields and helmets as well as hair, clothing and shaving fashions. He then identified these Scandinavians as Atlanteans who later attacked Egypt. His opinion in this regard was strongly supported by Felix R. Paturi [1339.218]. More recently, Spanuth’s ideas have also been echoed by Walter Baucum in his Bronze Age Atlantis .
Similarly, Ellis Peterson endorses Spanuth’s Scandinavian location for Atlantis(ax).
Before the emergence of these Bronze Age seafarers, there was a history of Northern Boat-Peoples who gradually expanded globally after the last Ice Age. A paper by Andres Pääbo charts their story(k). Zach Zorich is a freelance journalist and contributing editor at Archaeology magazine. In January 2016 he wrote an article(r) that would seem to contradict the idea of Northern European ‘Sea People’ invading Egypt, for the simple reason that sailing boats were not developed in Scandinavia until around the time of the Vikings! – “The plank boats and log boats being built in northern Europe were not the most advanced watercraft of their time. The Greeks, Egyptians, and other cultures around the Mediterranean Sea used sailing ships to conduct trade, and sails wouldn’t be used in Northern Europe until the Iron Age, during the seventh or eighth century CE.”
Another site(an) also describes the various ships of the period used by the Egyptians, Greeks and the Sea Peoples. One unusual suggestion on the same site is that some of the Sea Peoples, although allied with groups from across the Mediterranean, came from Britain and Northern Europe(ao)!
The Sea Peoples’ Alliances
I have used the plural because the evidence suggests that over the extended period of the Sea Peoples activities the alliances did experience some change of members.
Federico Bardanzellu offers several papers on his Museo dei Dolmen website(n) in which he suggests specific homelands for many of the members of the alliance(o).
Bob Idjennaden along with co-author, Mebarek S. Taklit, have produced The Mysterious Sea Peoples attack Egypt , which provides an overview of the various incursions against Egypt during the 2nd millennium BC. The prominent part played by the Berbers or their ancestors in varying alliances that constituted the Sea Peoples is highlighted.
According to Raffaele D’Amato & Andrea Salimbeti [1152.20], the Denyen were one of the major groups of the Sea Peoples and have been known in ancient sources by different names; Danai, Danaoi, Danaus, Danaids, Dene, Danaids, Danuna. Others have linked them with the Danaan of Irish mythology. The Tuatha de Danaan invaded Ireland in prehistoric times. Having noted that Dan/Don/Danu were ancient words for water, it is not such a wild supposition that the Tuatha de Danaan were at least a constituent part of the Sea Peoples, an idea promoted by Leonardo Melis.
On the other hand, Egerton Sykes thought that the Tuatha de Danaan were refugees from Atlantis, an idea he expressed in his 1949 edition of Ignatius Donnelly’s Atlantis. He was convinced that Murias one of the four legendary cities of the de Danann had been located in Bimini. This highly speculative idea failed to bear fruit as have all efforts to identify the location of the other three cities, Falias, Finias and Gorias.
Speculation regarding the identity of individual tribes in the federation can be found on various websites(i)(f). One of the most comprehensive is provided by two Italian military historians, D’Amato & Salimbeti in their 2015 booklet and on the internet(l) and both are to be highly recommended. They highlight the complexities involved in definitively identifying the members of the varying alliances that were loosely described as the ‘Sea Peoples’ over a three hundred year period.
Atlantis and the Sea Peoples
The German classical scholar, Wilhelm Christ, was probably the first to identify the invading Sea Peoples with the Atlanteans(p), predating Jürgen Spanuth’s theory by the better part of a century. Christ’s idea was also supported to varying degrees by Theodor Gomperz, Spyridon Marinatos, John V. Luce, and Herwig Görgemanns.
Quite a number of other writers have identified the Atlanteans as the Sea Peoples whose invasion of the Eastern Mediterranean has been recorded in some detail by the Egyptians. One such high profile identification in the 20th century was by Spyridon Marinatos. One of the latest to join this school is Dr Rainer W. Kühne who not only makes the same identification but, using satellite images, believes that he has pinpointed the capital of Atlantis in Southern Spain. His website has a list of comparisons of Atlanteans to the Sea Peoples(a), which is worth consideration.
‘Rider’, the anonymous author of an article(ae) concerning ‘the campaigns of the Sea Peoples’ on the allempires.com website also suggests that Plato’s Atlanteans can be identified with the Sea Peoples.
Frank Joseph contends that conflict between the Egyptians and the Sea Peoples was part of the Trojan War [0108.11] and has identified the Meshwesh, one of the Sea Peoples, as Atlantean . His speculation extended to describing ‘the Atlantean Sea Peoples’ as culture bearers who were responsible for, among other matters, the famous Serpent Mound of Ohio(ay).
Eberhard Zangger argues that the Sea Peoples were survivors of the Trojan War that fled to various parts of both the central and eastern Mediterranean(g). He has written further on this identification and more on the Luwian Studies website(s). Zangger claims that the Sea Peoples were an alliance of Libyans and Western Anatolian (Luwian) states(w)(y), which seems odd since Plato describes the Atlanteans as mightier than Libya and Asia combined. If Zangger is correct in identifying Troy as Atlantis , he is also implying that according to Plato, a part (Troy) is greater than the whole (Libya and Asia combined), Troy being part of Asia! Something is wrong with his theory.
In 2020, Sean Welsh maintained that survivors of the eruption of Thera, which held the capital of Atlantis ‘morphed’ into the Sea Peoples .
A more recent (2017) paper(aa) on a conservative website suggests that the Sea Peoples were ‘early Western Europeans’.
The most radical suggestion regarding the Sea Peoples has come from Jim Allen, who promotes a South American location for Atlantis. He also seemingly equates at least some of the Sea Peoples with his South American Atlanteans [077.123], has drawn attention to the similarity of some of the Sea Peoples’ headgear with that of Amazonian ‘Indians’(c)!
The Malagabay website published a lengthy article(t) in July 2016, offering evidence along with some conjecture, supporting the equally extreme idea that the Sea Peoples had originated in India and having migrated westward, some of them reached the Aegean and became known as Dorians! The author of the article appears to have followed the ideas of Edward Pococke (1604-1691) published in his India in Greece .
Another unexpected twist is the claim by the discoverer of the Phaistos Disk, Luigi Pernier, that the characters used on the Disk are similar to the representations of the Sea Peoples at Medinet Habu.
W. Sheppard Baird in a lengthy paper (ap) concluded that “The Minoan Diaspora from Spain gave birth to the Sea Peoples”
Two contributors to the Sea Peoples debate in the 1970s were Alessandra Nibbi (1923-2007)  and Nancy K. Sandars (1914-2015)  who, although they had their differences, appear to have agreed on: “(a) the ‘Sea Peoples’ were not one particular people, (b) their label as being ‘of the sea’ is misleading, and (c) earlier attempts to blame the cataclysmic collapse throughout the East Mediterranean in the Late Bronze Age on the Sea Peoples is untenable.”
The earliest book devoted to the Sea Peoples that I am aware of was Immanuel Velikovsky’s Peoples of the Sea. However, Velikovsky was more concerned with revising the chronologies of the Middle East and so focused on dating the invasion of the Sea Peoples rather than identifying their origins. Velikovsky has an interesting footnote in his Peoples of the Sea [758.4], which reads; “When Ramses III speaks of ‘Peoples of the Sea’ he specifies the Tkeker, the Shekelesh, the Teresh, the Weshesh and the Sherden (or Sardan); he specifies the Denyen as ‘Peoples of the Isles.'” It would be interesting to know the reason for the distinction.
Trude & Moshe Dothan have added another valuable book to the Sea Peoples literature with their People of the Sea which has the interesting sub-title of The Search for the Philistines . Related to their work, is the result of recent excavations at Ashkelon, an important Philistine city, which suggests that the city had received migrants from southern Europe during the Bronze Age, who may have constituted a component of the Sea Peoples(ah). Clearly, further investigation will be required to confirm these indications.
An extensive review of all the available material relating to the Sea Peoples was also published online in October 2015(q). The MalagaBay website (now closed) had also a wide-ranging illustrated article(u) about the Sea Peoples, although without reaching any firm conclusions.
(c) http://www.atlantisbolivia.org/headgear.htm (link broken) see part atlantis bolivia part 4 conclusion, mummies,uente magna and links
(i) Archive 2813
(k) Archive 2337 (all three parts)
(p) Abhandlungen der bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vol.. XVII, 2nd part, Munich 1886, pp. 451-512. (German)
(aa) Archive 3429
(ai) https://www.reddit.com/r/history/comments/c3fm5j/who_were_the_mysterious_sea_people_during_the/ (halfway down page)
(as) Cambridge Ancient History Ist edition, Vol.II, p.8
(ay) Atlantis Rising magazine #36 http://pdfarchive.info/index.php?pages/At
Late Bronze Age Collapse of civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC has been variously attributed to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and severe climate change. It is extremely unlikely that all these occurred around the same time through coincidence. Unfortunately, it is not clear to what extent these events were interrelated. As I see it, political upheavals do not lead to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or drought and so can be safely viewed as an effect rather than a cause. Similarly, climate change is just as unlikely to have caused eruptions or seismic activity and so can also be classified as an effect. Consequently, we are left with earthquakes and volcanoes as the prime suspects for the catastrophic turmoil that took place in the Middle East between the 15th and 12th centuries BC. Nevertheless, August 2013 saw further evidence published which blamed climate change for demise of civilisations in the region.
Robert Drews dismisses any suggestion that Greece suffered a critical drought around 1200 BC, citing the absence of any supporting reference by Homer or Hesiod as evidence. He proposes that “the transition from chariot to infantry warfare as the primary cause of the Great Kingdoms’ downfall.”
This extended period of chaos began around 1450 BC when the eruptions on Thera took place. These caused the well-documented devastation in the region including the ending of the Minoan civilisation and probably the Exodus of the Bible and the Plagues of Egypt as well. According to the Parian Marble, the Flood of Deucalion probably took place around the same time.
Professor Stavros Papamarinopoulos has written of the ‘seismic storm’ that beset the Eastern Mediterranean between 1225 and 1175 BC(a). Similar ideas have been expressed by Amos Nur & Eric H.Cline(b)(c). The invasion of the Sea Peoples recorded by the Egyptians, and parts of Plato’s Atlantis story all appear to have taken place around this period. Plato refers to a spring on the Athenian acropolis (Crit.112d) that was destroyed during an earthquake. Rainer Kühne notes that this spring only existed for about 25 years but was rediscovered by the Swedish archaeologist, Oscar Broneer, who excavated there from 1959 to 1967. The destruction of the spring and barracks, by an earthquake, was confirmed as having occurring at the end of the 12th century BC.
(this is a shorter version of (c) below)
‘they hunted after the bulls with staves and nooses but with no weapon of iron; and whatsoever bull they captured they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of the pillar, raining down blood on the inscription’.
If this reference was part of the original story told to Solon it adds further evidence that Plato’s description of Atlantis is that of a Late Bronze Age/Iron Age society. The context of this reference would appear to infer that the use of iron weapons was either normal at the time of Atlantis or just an anachronistic addition by Plato, which would have been well within the boundaries of literary licence of that period. Although the use of meteoric iron can be traced back to 3200 BC(b) in Egypt, elsewhere, the first mention of smelted iron in the Aegean and the Middle East is dated to around 1200 BC.*Alternatively, the passage might indicate that by tradition the use of iron for the killing of the bull was inappropriate.
Bauval & Hancock in their Keeper of Genesis[1050.104] recount the strange tale of an iron plate removed from the Great Pyramid at Giza in1837 and believed at the time that it had been included in the structure of the Pyramid when it was built. It took over a century before it was subjected to rigorous scientific testing by Dr. M.P. Jones and Dr. Sayed El Gayer, who concluded that the item “is very ancient” and that “the metallurgical evidence supports the archaeological evidence which suggests that the plate was incorporated within the Pyramid at the time that structure was being built”, generally thought to be around 2550 BC. Their conclusions were rejected by the British Museum, presumably because their acceptance conflicted with the conventional date for the start of the Iron Age in Egypt around a millennium later. However, I note that pieces of iron were found in the Black Pyramid of Abusir, which probably dates before 2000 BC(a).