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1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History) Hardcover – March 23, 2014

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Editorial Reviews



Winner of the 2014 Award for the Best Popular Book, American Schools of Oriental Research
One of The New York Post’s Best Books of 2014
Honorable Mention for the 2015 PROSE Award in Archeology & Anthropology, Association of American Publishers
One of The Australian’s Best Books of the Year in 2014, chosen by filmmaker Bruce Beresford

"A new and exciting book fell into my lap the other day, adding an archaic flavor to the current stew of apprehension and awe about where the world is going, and what we might find when it gets there. The book, by Eric H. Cline, an archeologist and anthropologist, is called 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed. It adds that remote date, previously inauspicious to all but scholars of the Late Bronze Age, to other, later ones--475 A.D., when Rome got sacked for good; 1348, the first year of the Black Plague; and that grim centennial favorite, 1914--as one more marker showing how a thriving civilization can gasp, fall over, and give up. . . . The memorable thing about Cline's book is the strangely recognizable picture he paints of this very faraway time. . . . It was as globalized and cosmopolitan a time as any on record, albeit within a much smaller cosmos. The degree of interpenetration and of cultural sharing is astonishing."--Adam Gopnik, New Yorker

"Cline has created an excellent, concise survey of the major players of the time, the latest archaeological developments, and the major arguments, including his own theories, regarding the nature of the collapse that fundamentally altered the area around the Mediterranean and the Near East. . . . This admirable introduction to the study of the era between the glorious past of Egypt (the Great Pyramid was already 1,500 years old) and the rise of Classical Greece (another 750 years away) will be appreciated by both generalists and classics buffs."--Evan M. Anderson, Library Journal

"In his new book, archaeologist Eric H. Cline introduces us to a past world with eerie resonance for modern times. . . . However stark a bellwether this represents for us, we can at least take comfort in knowing that should our society collapse, chances are good that something fascinating will emerge in its place."--Larry Getlen, New York Post

"Offers students and the interested lay antiquarian a sense of the rich picture that is emerging from debates among the ruins. . . . Given how the 21st century is shaping up, [1177 B.C.] may yet become a common reference point--and one of more than antiquarian relevance."--Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed

"In this enjoyable new book, Eric H. Cline has set himself an ambitious task: Not only must he educate a popular audience about the wealth and power of the eastern Mediterranean civilizations of the Bronze Age, he must then make his readers care that, some time around the year 1200 b.c., these empires, kingdoms, and cities suffered a series of cataclysms from which they never recovered."--Susan Kristol, Weekly Standard

"Fresh and engaging."--Andrew Robinson, Current World Archaeology

"This story is not new, having been told by Robert Drews (The End of the Bronze Age, 1993) and Nancy Sandars (The Sea Peoples, 1985). Cline's contribution is to extend these seminal works by including and analyzing all the relevant material brought to light in the last two decades and to tell an engaging tale. His extensive presentation of source materials in the footnotes and bibliography of 1177 BC makes the book extremely valuable for scholars, yet he explains the complexities of his subject in language easily understandable by general readers."--Richard A. Gabriel, Military History Quarterly

"Cline's Bronze Age shares characteristics with our own age, and if we accept this, we can only conclude that Cline has written one of this year's most interesting books."--Jona Lendering, NRC Handelsblad

"Intriguing . . . lively, engaging."--Middle East Media and Book Reviews Online

"Cline's work reveals eerie parallels between the geopolitics of the first years of 12th century BC and today's 21st century. 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed is history, but reads like a good mystery novel. Cline draws readers into his tale, revealing surprises throughout. It is all the more fascinating for being true, and for its relevance to today's world."--Mark Lardas, Daily News (Galveston, TX)

"Scholarly divergences of judgment aside, Cline's book remains essential."--Thomas F. Bertonneau, Brussels Journal

"1177 B.C.: the Year Civilization Collapsed is a wonderful example of scholarship written for the non-expert. Cline clearly pulls together the engaging story of the interactions among the major empires of the Late Bronze Age and puts forth a reasonable theory explaining why they seem to have evaporated as quickly as moisture on a hot afternoon."--Fred Reiss, San Diego Jewish World

"Eric H. Cline has written a work of great scholarship, but has written in a manner so that the non-expert . . . can not only understand, but also appreciate it. . . . [H]e has brought together the latest thinking on the matter. Perhaps more importantly he has drawn comparisons with the modern world. Maybe we might look at those ancient civilizations from a new perspective."--Don Vincent, Open History

"I don't know when I've appreciated a book as much as 1177 B.C. If you enjoy learning, you will enjoy this book! Highly recommended."--Thomas A. Timmes, UNRV History

"This book is the first comprehensive account of this crisis since the publication 36 years ago of N.K. Sandar's The Sea Peoples: Warriors of the Ancient Mediterranean. . . . One of the highlights of the book is Cline's full and lucid discussion of the new archaeological evidence that has accumulated since Sandar's 1985 publication, including the excavation of shipwrecks and the discovery of texts suggesting a Hittite political context for the Trojan War. Particularly valuable is the author's convincing argument that only a multifactor analysis can account for the end of the Bronze Age."--Choice

"Highly recommended, especially for public and college library collections."--James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

"This is a comprehensive study, based on the latest academic research, with detailed notes and a comprehensive bibliography (and a useful dramatis personae which comes in handy if you tend to confuse Ammurapi with Assuruballit or Shattiwaza with Shuttarna), but written as a gripping mystery story with clues to follow and evidence to analyse--which should appeal to readers of all levels."--SG, Ancient Egypt

"A fascinating look at the Late Bronze Age, proving that whether for culture, war, economic fluctuations or grappling with technological advancement, the conundrums we face are never new, but merely renewed for a modern age."--Larry Getlen, New York Post

From the Back Cover

"This enthralling book describes one of the most dramatic and mysterious processes in the history of mankind--the collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations. Cline walks us through events that transpired three millennia ago, but as we follow him on this intriguing sojourn, lurking in the back of our minds are tantalizing, perpetual questions: How can prosperous cultures disappear? Can this happen again; to us?"--Israel Finkelstein, coauthor of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts

"Impressively marshaling the most recent archaeological and historical evidence, Eric Cline sets the record straight: there was a 'perfect storm' of migrations, rebellions, and climate change that resulted in the collapse of states that were already unstable in the Late Bronze Age. There followed an 'age of opportunity' for new kinds of political systems and ideologies that remade the world of the eastern Mediterranean in the first millennium B.C. Onward and upward with collapse!"--Norman Yoffee, University of Michigan

"Cline has written a wonderfully researched and well-crafted overview of one of the most fascinating, complex, and debated periods in the history of the ancient world. Tying together an impressively broad range of disparate data, he weaves together a very convincing re-creation of the background, mechanisms, and results of the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age in the eastern Mediterranean and beyond."--Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University

"1177 B.C. tells the story of one of history's greatest mysteries. Unknown invaders shattered the splendid civilizations of the Bronze Age Mediterranean in a tidal wave of fire and slaughter, before Egypt's pharaoh turned them back in a fierce battle on the banks of the Nile. We do not know who these attackers were, and perhaps we never will; but no archaeologist is better equipped to guide us through this dramatic story than Eric Cline. 1177 B.C. is the finest account to date of one of the turning points in history."--Ian Morris, author of Why the West Rules--for Now

"This book is a very valuable and very timely addition to the scholarship on the end of the Late Bronze Age. Cline provides a comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and up-to-date treatment of one of the most dramatic and enigmatic periods in the history of the ancient world."--Trevor Bryce, author of The World of the Neo-Hittite Kingdoms: A Political and Military History

"This is an excellent, thought-provoking book that brings to life an era that is not well known to most readers."--Amanda H. Podany, author of Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East


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Product Details

  • Series: Turning Points in Ancient History
  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Second Impression edition (March 23, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691140898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691140896
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (324 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

DR. ERIC H. CLINE is Professor of Classics and Anthropology, Director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute, and former Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at The George Washington University, in Washington DC. 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 excavation and survey experience in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, Greece, Crete, and the United States, including ten seasons at the site of Megiddo (biblical Armageddon) in Israel, where he is Co-Director, and seven seasons at Tel Kabri, where he is also Co-Director. Winner of the 2014 "Best Popular Book" award from the American Schools of Oriental Research for his recent book "1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed," a three-time winner of the Biblical Archaeology Society's "Best Popular Book on Archaeology" Award (2001, 2009, and 2011), and a popular lecturer who has appeared frequently on television documentaries, he has also won national and local awards for both his research and his teaching. He is the author or editor of 16 books, almost 100 articles, and three recorded 14-lecture courses. His previous books written specifically for the general public include "The Battles of Armageddon: Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley from the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Age" (2000), "Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel" (2004), "From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible" (2007), "Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction" (2009), "The Trojan War: A Very Short Introduction" (2013), and, most recently, "1177 BC: The Year Civilzation Collapsed" (2014). He has also co-authored a children's book on Troy, entitled "Digging for Troy" (2011). For a video of his "Last Lecture" talk, go to http://vimeo.com/7091059.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

237 of 247 people found the following review helpful By Chris Crawford on April 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
[ I have edited this review to correct some flaws pointed out in comments. ]

The other reviewers have already pointed out the book's many fine points; I agree with them that this is a book well worth reading. I had long thought that the Late Bronze Age Collapse was primarily due to the depredations of the Sea Peoples, and this book scotches that idea. Yes, the Sea Peoples played a part in it, but they may well have been just as much Effect as Cause. That is, their rampage may well have been induced by the same factors that brought down other cities.

The real contribution of this book lies in the application of recent archaeological findings to the problem. Over the last few decades archaeologists have built up a steady compilation of data on the cities of the Late Bronze Age, and they have demonstrated that not all those cities were destroyed in wars. Some show evidence of having been wrecked by earthquakes; in others, the destruction is confined to the central palace and government facilities, suggesting that a popular revolt, not a foreign invasion, lay behind the destruction. Other sites, however, do show the kind of general destruction we'd expect from a victorious enemy.

Especially important is the evidence they bring to bear showing that some sort of regional climate change was responsible for the at least some part of the collapse. The evidence indicates a cooler, dryer climate which would have been devastating to the cereal crops on which civilizations are dependent. The cooler climate would have led to repeated famines that would have led to revolts, migrations, and wars - all of which appear in the record of this period.

However, there are two points on which I disagree with the author.
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179 of 189 people found the following review helpful By Peter S. Bradley on April 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a subject that ought to fill the reader with the feeling of "gosh-wow!" about how close to our own world and yet so very different was the world of the Late Bronze Age. The Bronze Age was Civilization 1.0 - the first draft of civilization. It was successful and flourishing and in my ways very much like our own. Then - suddenly - the slate was wiped virtually clean, and a new civilization - Civilization 2.0 - which would lead to our own - entered the stage of world history.

Eric Cline in 1177 B.C. does a great job of setting the stage for the reader to appreciate and understand the destruction of Late Bronze Age civilization. The book is fairly slim, and a pretty quick read. Cline takes the reader back a few centuries from the mysterious 12th Century BC destruction of the Bronze Age world. Cline introduced the reader to Bronze Age civilization at its height, when commerce was globalized and a network of royal marriage alliances tied together empires and kingdoms from Egypt to the Hittite empire to Mycenaea. Cline tells his story by referring to the many pieces of royal correspondence that archeologists have managed to uncover in the ruined cities of forgotten empires. It is a "gosh-wow" fact that we are able to read the correspondence between royalty more than 3,000 years after the fact.

And yet there is so much we don't know. One of those things is "what happened?"

In the space of virtually no time, the mighty Hittite empire was destroyed, leaving nothing but a bare memory in some biblical references. Mycenaea was likewise completely destroyed, as were other empires and kingdoms of the epoch, e.g.
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124 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Whitney Keen on March 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are so many theories concerning the end of the Bronze Age that a description and discussion of the theories was really needed. This book presents a coherent and highly readable outline of the period, setting it into its historical milieu.. Dr. Cline proposes some interesting parallels between 1177BC and the present which should give us all pause. I read this book all in one sitting, even at dinner. I could not put it down.
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148 of 165 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Weitz VINE VOICE on March 28, 2014
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I have been interested in this topic since 1966, when I wrote a paper on Minoan-Mycenaean trade patterns with the Fertile Crescent and Central Europe. In that I argued that this region was the nexus of a wide-ranging trade network; in the author's words "a cosmopolitan and globalized world system". The thesis of this splendid book is how the disruption of this trading system brought about the collapse of Later Bronze Age Civilization's "globalized world"; resulting in the destruction of the great civilizations of the LBA and the introduction of a "Dark Age".

Eric H Cline, the author of the excellent Battle of Armageddon The Battles of Armageddon: Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley from the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Ageand the useful Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)discusses the crucial role of the strategic resource of this period; tin. The disruption of the tin supply coming from distant mines in Afghanistan had catastrophic effects for the civilizations of the Hittites, Mitanni, Assyria and Egypt. (Personally, I think that sources of tin from Central Europe or perhaps even Britain would have been available by this time.) The author argues that this would be comparable to the disruption of the oil trade in today's "globalized world". Cline argues that these nations were so interdependent and intertwined that the collapse of one left all the others extremely vulnerable; and they each in turn fell to natural(earthquakes, floods and famines) and man-made disasters.
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