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1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History) Paperback – September 22, 2015
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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 Federalist’s Notable Books of 2015
One of The Australian’s Best Books of the Year in 2014, chosen by filmmaker Bruce Beresford
Selected as the 'Book of the Semester' Fall 2016, David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at Brigham Young University
"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 [See full review http://bit.do/Cline-NY-Gopnik]
"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 [See full review http://bit.do/Cline-NYP-Getlen]
"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."--Evan M. Anderson, Library Journal [See full review http://bit.do/Cline-LibJourn-Anderson]
"Fresh and engaging."--Andrew Robinson, Current World Archaeology
"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
"1177 B.C. tells the story of one of history's greatest mysteries. . . . [It] is the finest account to date of one of the turning points in history."--Ian Morris, author of Why the West Rules--for Now
"The 12th century BCE is one of the watershed eras of world history. Empires and kingdoms that had dominated late Bronze Age western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean collapsed."--Choice [See full review http://bit.do/Cline-Choice]
"Cline explores a vast array of variables that could have led to the disruption of the society of this era, including earthquakes, famines, droughts, warfare, and, most notably, invasions by the 'Sea Peoples.'"--Publishers Weekly [See full review http://bit.do/Cline-PW]
"A detailed but accessible synthesis. . . . [O]ffers students and the interested lay antiquarian a sense of the rich picture that is emerging from debates among the ruins."--Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed [See full review http://bit.do/Cline-IHE-McLemee]
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 ofThe 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 ofWhy 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 ofBrotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East
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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. The first is the author's decision not to organize the causal factors into some sort of logical pattern. Instead, he declares that all of the factors (climate change, poor harvests, migration, civil disturbance, and war) converged to create a "perfect storm" that destroyed Late Bronze Age civilization in the Near East. That struck me as overly conservative.
My second objection falls on the assumption that a collapse of international trade caused by the piratical depredations of the Sea Peoples added to the collapse. The author several times refers to an 'international system' of trade, likening it to modern globalization. He even goes so far as to suggest that the societies of that time had developed such intricate trade relationships that the disruption of those relationships helped undermine the societies.
The problem arises when you think in terms of economic output. In all early societies, agricultural output constituted the vast majority of economic output. Sure, the historical records teem with stories of gems, spices, precious woods, and metals, but they attracted so much attention only because they were so rare. In terms of economic output, grain was far and away the most important component of all ancient societies. Indeed, in 1790, 90% of all laborers in the USA worked on farms. So let's keep our eyes on the ball here: grain.
Trade in grain was rare and limited to emergency situations, because the transport systems of the Late Bronze Age were incapable of moving grain in bulk. The ocean-going ships of the day had cargo capacities of a few tens of tons. Grain was carried in heavy ceramic jars; a single ship could carry enough food to provide for at most a hundred people for a year. Land transportation was even worse: the inefficient wagons and poor roads of the day did not permit the carriage of large amounts of grain very far. After a few tens of miles, so much of the grain would have to go to feed the dray animals that there just wouldn't be much left at the destination.
Thus, the disruption of trade would have denied rulers their luxuries, but would not have made much of a dent on the economy as a whole.
A postscript to this review: the author of the book, Eric Cline, has graciously responded to my criticisms and finally gotten through my thick head a point that, while not mentioned in this review, came up in the exchange of comments. He has taken a lot of his time to straighten me out, and I deeply appreciate his patience with my errors.
I also find the name to be disingenuous. The year is chosen because that is when we "know" that Ramses III encountered the Sea Peoples in Egypt, but Cline spends a significant chunk of the book underplaying the role the Sea Peoples had in Bronze Age Collapse. In fact, sometimes it feels like he is underplaying the Bronze Age Collapse itself. He is quite quick to point out the cities that were re-populated, that did not suffer as much as first thought, and so forth. Yet he also doesn't, in my opinion, spend nearly enough time in Greece, as the destruction of the Myceneae civilization is much more total than the ones he does focus on. Then again, though, the information we would need to tell that story is just not there.
However, these faults are outweighed by the fact that Cline paints a very, very good picture of what civilization was like at the time before the collapse. The picture he paints is one of, by all accounts, a very cosmopolitan, dynamic, lively society. It's where the vast majority of the book spends its time, and it's clear that is where Cline's interests lie. The problem is that the narrative is set up so that this is merely a prologue to the collapse, yet the way the collapse is soft-pedaled makes the whole thing feel more like a bait & switch. I would have happily read a book on Late Bronze Age civilization that was sold as such, but perhaps the publishers thought selling it as a gripping story of collapse would get more attention (and they were probably right).
I do recommend this book, just don't go in expecting what the title and description says.
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Good facts, though.
Makes you feel as if you were there, in Karnak, Hatusa and all the other sites of the LBA.Read more