CHESS Speaker Series event focused on Bronze Age collapse

Chloe Palmiere, News Editor

Gannon University’s CHESS Speaker Series continued last week with the author of a book that looked at the demise of earlier civilizations.

Eric Cline, author of a book titled “1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed,” was the featured speaker at the annual Collins Lecture, which took place March 23 via Zoom.

The lecture had been planned for over two years, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had been postponed until last week.

The lecture is part of this year’s series, which has the theme of Reinventing Right Now.

Cline is professor of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies and anthropology and director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Cline is an experienced and active field archaeologist, with more than 30 seasons of excavation and survey to his credit since 1980 in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, Greece, Crete, and the United States.

Cline’s book, which was published in 2013, covers the collapse of the Bronze Age, which was between 1700-1200 B.C.

Josh Staley, a senior political science major, said he enjoyed Cline’s lecture, which focused on the main points from his book.

“I thought he did a really good job making information that a lot of people might not know about both accessible and interesting to the average person,” Staley said.

Cline said that it was a perfect storm of catastrophes that led the Late Bronze Age civilizations to collapse.

There was not a single driving force or trigger that caused the collapse, but rather a number of different stressors, each of which forced people to react in different ways to accommodate the changing situations.

The Sea peoples originally were blamed for the collapse, but it is unlikely.

There is also evidence for drought in Levant and Cyprus, famine in Anatolia, Ugarit and elsewhere, invaders with Ugarit kiln letter; Tweini and Ugarit, and lastly earthquakes in Greece, Anatolia and Levant.

Cline said that if the Late Bronze Age civilizations were truly globalized and dependent upon each other for goods and services, even just to a certain extent, then change to any one of the relevant kingdoms would potentially affect and destabilize them all.

Cline said there are four general features of systems collapsing: the collapse of the central administrative organization, the disappearance of the traditional elite class, the collapse of the centralized economy and settlement shifts and population declines.

Cline said that when a system collapses, it will take as long as a century for all of the aspects of the collapse to be completed.

There is usually no single obvious cause for the collapse.

Staley said he thought Cline’s talk had relevance for what’s happening today.

“I thought it was important when he was able to connect a lot of the issues we face today as a society with the issues from that time,” Staley said.

Following a collapse, there is frequently a transition to a lower level of sociopolitical integration and the development of “romantic” Dark Age myths about the previous period.

There are still unanswered questions that Cline and other researchers have.

No one knows whether the various entities knew that they were in a midst of a collapse of their society.

No one knows whether there were organized efforts to evaluate and remedy the overall evolving situation and look into the future.

There are also no indications in the archaeological remains or textual records that anyone at the time was aware of the larger picture.

While Cline and others hope to figure out these answers, he is focusing on what happened after the collapse of 1177 B.C., by writing a new book focusing on the aftermath.


[email protected]