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1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  3,858 ratings  ·  545 reviews
In 1177 B.C., marauding groups known only as the "Sea Peoples" invaded Egypt. The pharaoh's army and navy managed to defeat them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt and cataclysmic end. Kingdoms fell like domino ...more
Hardcover, 237 pages
Published March 23rd 2014 by Princeton University Press
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Andrew Updegrove
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This is perhaps the most disappointing book I've read in the past five years. Moreover, I say that based not only on my original assumption about what the author was setting out to achieve, but also on my adjusted assumption, after reading a few chapters

Let's start with the first assumption - that this would be a well-crafted book exploring external stresses on some interesting societies and the unfortunate results, along the lines of a work by Jared Diamond. Why would I jump to that conclusion
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it


My father, behold, the enemy's ships came (here); my cities(?) were burned, and they did evil things in my country. Does not my father know that all my troops and chariots are in the Land of Hatti, and all my ships are in the Land of Lukka?...Thus, the country is abandoned to itself. May my father know it: the seven ships of the enemy that came here inflicted much damage upon us.
-Letter from the King of Ugarit, c. 1200 BCE

The year 1177 BC is one which does not stan

A representation of the mural on the northern wall of Ramesses III's mortuary temple depicting his victory over the "Sea People"

But see also this link for a larger, clearer version of this image.

The collapse of the late Bronze Age cultures in the eastern Mediterranean, redux

Within a few decades around 1200 BCE most of the thriving cities around the eastern Mediterranean had been burnt to the ground, abandoned or reduced to a shadow of their former selves, including Mycenae, Thebes and Tiryns on
Clif Hostetler
Mar 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
The so-called Dark Ages of the 6th to 13th centuries that followed the demise of the Roman Empire was not the first dark age experienced by human civilization. This book explores what archeologists know about the Late Bronze Age collapse circa 1200 BC.

During the fifty-year period from 1225 to 1175 BC, the flourishing international trade between nations of the eastern Mediterrainian Sea ceased. Advanced cultures of the Mycenaeams, Minoans, Hittites, Assyrians, Kassites, Cypriots, Mitannians, Can
Lois Bujold
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers interested in the Late Bronze Age who already have some grounding
Recommended to Lois by: random internet review

An overview of the end of the Bronze Age in the so-called Ancient World, the eastern Mediterranean and Near East from about 1500 B.C. to about 1150 B.C. The author and editors may fondly imagine this is written for a general public while retaining scholarly rigor. I think the first part of that belief is overly optimistic, while the second I cannot judge. Personally, I could have used something like "The Bronze Age for Dummies" as a lead-in, to give me a broader overview of the places, peoples,
Half the book is the endnotes, which was great because I was getting a little weary. It's not exactly a narrative history but more of a Cliff's Notes version of all the scholarship that has been done on the theories of the Late Bronze Age collapse. I could have used more context about the players in the century-long drama and more clarity. There's a lot of backtracking from various theories since no one knows for sure the who, what, where, and why about any of it. There are scattered facts and c ...more
Erik Moore
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for reviewing and cross-referencing the current research on the fall of the Bronze Age into darkness at 1177 BC (the End of the Egyptian New Kingdom and the Reign of Ramses III) for a period of 300 years. The linkages between recently dug up newly translated tablets from Ugarit along with pollen core samples, radio-carbon dating, pot shard analysis, and sunken treasure is astounding. The work that must have gone into any one of these is a testament to the desire for our curr ...more
Emma Sea
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at exactly how interconnected the cultures around the Med were in the late Bronze Age. Fascinating translations of letters I hadn't read before. Clines's writing is very conversational and communicates a great enthusiasm for the topic. I also felt his thesis was pretty comprehensively proven i.e. it's complex. The book really left me with an overwhelming desire to read a lot more recent work in the area, and that's gotta be a good thing, right?

Note that Clines does not cover
Justin Evans
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-etc
Not at all what the cover and press suggests, Cline has written a short history of the bronze age, with a focus on the end of it. His argument is that a lot of different factors contributed to the end of bronze age civilizations. Unfortunately, that kind of responsible argument won't get much of a hearing in the wider marketplace, so instead this is billed as a book about the END OF CIVILIZATION and how many lessons we can get from the 12th century BC.

There are no lessons, and civilization obvi
Loring Wirbel
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's dispense with a pet peeve right away: I despise the trend of using a year for a book title, a decision I doubt Eric Cline had any say in. At least with a book like 1453 there is a significant event like the fall of Constantinople to hang one's hat on. It's as silly to call 1493 the ideal year to define post-Columbian Native American culture as it is to say 1971 was the defining seminal year for rock and roll. When dealing with the fuzzy and uncertain Late Bronze Era, it becomes even more p ...more

The word that comes to mind after finishing this book is ‘disappointing’. Don’t get me wrong – this is not a bad book. Cline is well-known for his objective approach and thorough research, and he brings both to this book. He also writes in a smooth, readable style that makes the book suitable for a general audience as well as a more scholarly one. The information he provides is accurate, as far as I can see.

My issue is the formatting. For starters, as other reviewers have said, Cline attempts to
Brad Lyerla
Nov 24, 2014 rated it liked it
In the 13th and 12th centuries BC, as the Bronze Age was ending, cataclysmic changes rocked the civilizations of the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean regions. Some affluent and successful regimes ceased to exist altogether like the Hittite empire and kingdom of Ugarit. Others continued, but in a greatly diminished and transformed version of themselves including the Mycenaeans, Minoans, Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Canaanites and Cypriots.

What followed these changes has been described as a
Aug 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historia
Buena muestra de como una obra puede ser didáctica sin dejar de ser rigurosa. Cline enumera las distintas hipótesis que pudieron llevar al colapso de las civilizaciones de la Edad del Bronce tardía argumentándolas según los últimos hallazgos e investigaciones (textuales, arqueológicos, geológicos, biológicos,…) pero sin aseverar nada que no esté lo suficientemente comprobado. Aún así, arriesga y ofrece posibles nuevas vías de investigación y enfoques novedosos con la honestidad de señalar siemp ...more
Steven Peterson
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a sensibly written book that explores the collapse of a number of Bronze Age countries around 1177 B.C. That date, itself, is not precisely when the various countries succumbed. But it is a reasonable date to symbolize the event.

The book attempts to determine what led to the demise of major civilizations--from Troy to Mycenae to the Hittite Empire to Minos to . . . . The story notes that Egypt had to fight a mighty war to avoid being destroyed--but it was substantially weakened in the pr
José Luís  Fernandes
In this book, Eric H. Cline goes beyond just analizing the Bronze Age collapse to see it as a part of wider process in the development of international relations in the Bronze Age in the 15th-12th centuries B.C., which he argues that led to an interconnected world where the disruption in one part could affect the whole and to a high level of complexity in which , helping to explain thereby this collapse.

In doing this, the author employs a very readable and entertaining writing style and makes t
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
This book was good but it was so dry and boring.
I read most of this book during bouts of insomnia.
Dec 11, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Adam by: Mallory Ortberg
From Mallory's tweet (where I first saw this) and the blurbs, I got the impression that 1177 BC would 1) take a dusty, abstract historical period and enrich it with cultural and economic details that were excluded from the more strictly military version I was familiar with and 2) address the abrupt collapse of the international economic system in that period and theoretically reframe the role of the mythical "Sea Peoples," the Goths to Egypt's Rome. Maybe those expectations were too strong, whic ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Like frogs around a pond civilizations and city states dotted the Mediterranean over 3200 years ago. These civilizations were in contact and had relations in war and peace. They were Egypt, The Canaanites, the Hittites, the Minoans, the Mycenae, the Assyrians all connected through the Mediterranean. Something caused them to collapse or suffer major disruption in and around 1177 b.c.e. The various culprits have been Earthquakes, Climate change (causing famine), rebellion, warfare and a mysterious ...more
1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Eric Cline, PhD)

Description: In 1177 B.C., marauding groups known only as the "Sea Peoples" invaded Egypt. The pharaoh's army and navy managed to defeat them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt and cataclysmic end. Kingdoms fell like dominoes over the course of just a few decades. No more Mino
Ralph Mazza
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you're a fan of history, particularly ancient history, this book is a must read. It is an up to date, survey, of our current knowledge around that period of time where the Bronze Age was transitioning into the Iron Age commonly known as the Bronze Age Collapse.

The book is organized into 5 chapters that take you from several centuries before the collapse as the ancient world was starting to become more internationally connected with each other through the golden age of eastern mediterranean gl
Tim Robinson
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Civilisation collapsed at the end of the Bronze Age. Throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East, a great many palaces were destroyed and cities abandoned, and in some states central organisation and even literacy vanished. The process took several generations, and different cities died in different ways.

All attempts to find a coherent and compelling explanation have failed; this book is no exception! The traditional view is to blame the "Sea Peoples": a group whose origins, composition,
This book is an attempt to summarize and even popularize several streams of research of classical scholars around the collapse of the late Bronze Age around the transition from the 13th to the 12th centuries BCE. The intuition is that research has shown the world at this time to be an interconnected and indeed global civilization with intensive interactions among a number of major and largely centralized empires. Then in a very brief period that world order collapsed and society became more diso ...more
May 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
You should never get to the end of a book & wonder if maybe your copy was missing a chapter. But that's how I felt about 1177 B.C.

Cline does a fine job of setting up the stage, identifying the major civilizations of the Mediterranean area in the 3 centuries prior to 1177. And his overview of the evidence for destruction of major sites in the 100 years or so from 1250 on is clear enough. But it seemed like the analysis of the collapse was over in no time, with no real conclusion or insight o
11811 (Eleven)
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Do you know how many people were named King Ramses Tut the something followed by nine other syllables I cannot pronounce without modifying my tongue with a scalpel?

Me either! But there were quite a few.

This was boring. It didn't really get into the macro-history (is that a word?) until the last 10% and the conclusion was basically "we don't know what the fuck might have happened. 50 years of earthquakes may have had an impact but we're still looking into it."

Keep looking into it. Write another b
Margaret Sankey
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent review of the most recent research on the Late Bronze Age, complete with analysis of cargo found in shipwrecks and systems theory examination of diplomatic correspondence among kings. Cline focuses on the perfect storm of internal weaknesses, interdependence, climate change, invasion and earthquakes which sent the leading kingdoms into decline and allowed for the emergence of the new Iron Age civilizations. The bibliography is particularly useful.
Noah Goats
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are a lot of questions this book can’t answer. Who were the Sea People who wreaked so much havoc towards the end of the Bronze Age? Dunno. Where did they come from? Dunno. What were their motivations? Dunno. Did they destroy civilization around the Mediterranean? Maybe they were a factor.

Ancient-ancient history, the history of what happened before Herodotus, is frustrating because it’s not really history at all, it’s just a lot of dust with a few artifacts sprinkled over it. The sources ar
Jack R. Cotner
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference
1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline

I enjoy history and found this book a fascinating and educational read. The work is a quest to identify the forces responsible for the demise of the Bronze Age ‘civilizations’ of Egypt and its immediate neighbors. It is written in an easy to understand style with relevant footnotes, an extensive bibliography, chapter notes with comments, and a reference called “Dramatis Personae” listing the chronology of the major rulers and related pers
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book attempts to sift through and systematize a bunch of competing ideas about the Bronze Age Collapse -- what happened, what caused what, and so on. In the end Cline's effort leads to the unsatisfactory conclusion that it's hard to be confident of anything because 3,000 years is a long time. It seems that the best scholars can do is to construct and constrain plausible-sounding (and fascinating!) hypotheses. Cline tries to draw analogies to modern issues around trade and climate change, bu ...more
Peter Goodman
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history

“1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed,” by Eric H. Cline (Princeton University, 2014). An archeologist’s version of popular history---by which I mean no denigration, but that Cline is a superb geologist who uses the latest research throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean areas to try to understand and explain why, in the early 12th century BC, a series of powerful, sophisticated, wealthy and interconnected civilizations: Egyptian, Hittite, Myceanean, Babylonian, Assyrian, etc, collap
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fr, history
Des échanges commerciaux internationaux, des liens diplomatiques intenses, une élite à la dernière pointe, la circulation des artistes, voici le monde méditerranéen comme vous ne l'avez jamais vu! Non ce n'est pas une fiction, ni même un roman historique bidon mal ficelé. On est au XIIe siècle avant J-C dans le bassin méditerranéen : l'âge de bronze à son apogée. L'auteur nous peint une fantastique fresque de l'histoire des relations internationales, de la Crète à l’Égypte, en passant par le Roy ...more
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DR. ERIC H. CLINE is the former Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and current Director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute at The George Washington University. A National Geographic Explorer and Fulbright scholar with degrees from Dartmouth, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania, he is an active field archaeologist with 30 seasons of excavatio ...more
“Unfortunately, identifying Ramses II as the pharaoh of the Exodus, which is the identification most frequently found in both scholarly and popular books, does not work if one also wishes to follow the chronology presented in the Bible.” 5 likes
“the question of whether the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt was an actual event or merely part of myth and legend also remains unanswered at the moment .. alternative explanations of the Exodus story might be correct. They include the possibility that the Israelites took advantage of the havoc caused by the Sea Peoples in Canaan to move in and take control of the region; that the Israelites were actually part of the larger group of Canaanites already living in the land; or that the Israelites had migrated peacefully into the region over the course of centuries .. the Exodus story was probably made up centuries later, as several scholars have suggested. In the meantime, it will be best to remain aware of the potential for fraud, for many disreputable claims have already been made about events, peoples, places, and things connected with the Exodus. Undoubtedly more misinformation, whether intentional or not, will be forthcoming in the future.” 1 likes
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