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The Collapse of Bronze Age Societies in the Eastern Mediterranean: Sea Peoples in Cyprus?

Research project
Active research
Project size
7.680.000 SEK
Project period
2016 - 2021
Project owner
Institutionen för historiska studier

Short description

The aim of the project is to investigate the causes of disruption in international trade and eventually the partial/total collapse of the sophisticated Bronze Age civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean around 1200 BCE. Hypotheses explaining this severe cultural crisis involve the appearance of invading peoples, the “Sea Peoples”. This Sea Peoples phenomenon might have been initiated by south-eastward migration starting in Italy, continuing over the Mediterranean and the Balkans to Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean islands and eventually ending in the Levant and Egypt. It has been proposed that rapid climate change around 1200 BCE has been the decisive factor which lead to the south-east migration.

The Collapse of Bronze Age Societies in the Eastern Mediterranean:
Sea Peoples in Cyprus?


1. Purpose and Aims

The prosperous period in the Mediterranean from roughly 1600 to 1200 BC, which is often termed the Golden Age, is the first epoch of internationalism. The abrupt decline of Mediterranean Bronze Age societies around 1200 BC, is today generally acknowledged. Various, not yet convincing, explanations for the disastrous events, the Crisis Years followed by the so called Dark Ages, which lead to a transformed cultural and political landscape in vast areas of today’s Europe and, more specifically, the Eastern Mediterranean, have been put forward. The devastating effects of these events can be traced long after they happened, both in the archaeological records and in historical sources. Scholars in the fields of archaeology, anthropology and ethnology, natural science and economics, have tried from different angles to explain why dominating civilisations declined and in some cases even vanished: the Mycenaeans in today’s Greece and the Minoans in Crete deteriorated, the Hittites in Anatolia almost vanished, the Cypriots probably became mixed with immigrants/invaders, and even the lone remaining superpower at that time, mighty Egypt, lost its colonies in the Levant and fell into a regression. These events lead to an interruption of intercultural exchange of goods and knowledge, a worsening of general living conditions and – in some areas – even a total cultural and political collapse. Nevertheless, at the present state of research a consensus about the causes of such events does not exist.

The dominating – but yet to be proved – hypotheses, which try to explain these catastrophic events around 1200 BC, deal mainly with severe climatic changes leading to drought and famine, and the appearance of what are known as the Sea Peoples, which might have been a consequence of environmental changes. Some scholars believe that they migrated from southern Europe by land and sea south-eastwards over the Balkans, Anatolia, Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean islands including Crete and Cyprus towards the Levant and Egypt. However, there are, so far, no convincing traces in the archaeological record.

We are in the privileged situation of having access to historical and pictorial Egyptian sources from these Crisis Years, where the enigmatic “Peoples of the Sea” are mentioned and even depicted: serious attacks on Egypt are described from the period of Pharaoh Merneptha (1213–1203 BC) and the reign of Ramses III in 1175 BC. Ramses III’s troops were able to stop the Sea Peoples from invading Egypt but they were not extinct and, consequently, remained a continued threat from the area around today’s Gaza where they settled. A disruption of intercultural connections including those with one of Egypt’s most important trade partners, Cyprus, followed in the wake of these events. Other sources are clay tablets from Ugarit in Syria: one shows the correspondence of the king of Ugarit with the king of Alasia (Cyprus), where naval attacks on Ugarit around 1190 BC are described which eventually resulted in the devastation of one of the richest cities in Syria. 

The island of Cyprus, which was at the centre of the upheaval around 1200 BC, is at the crossroads between the Eastern Mediterranean cultures. It played a dominating role in international trade because of its rich copper ores. Destructive events, but also the foundation of new settlements, took place in Cyprus at the beginning of the 12th century BC according to available excavation reports from various cities (see below) and the results of the ongoing Swedish excavations at Hala Sultan Tekke, directed by the applicant since 2010 (five campaigns). The harbour city of Hala Sultan Tekke is most likely the largest (c. 50 ha) and one of the leading urban Bronze Age centres in Cyprus. The excavations exposed settlement layers from the end of the 13th and the 12th centuries BC, i.e. precisely the period of the appearance of the aforementioned Sea Peoples. There are a number of finds from the excavations which are related to western (mainly Italian) immigrants, e.g. ceramics (Barbarian Ware), jewellery (violin bow fibulae) and textile production tools (cylindrical loom weights). In 2013, the Swedish mission discovered a large cemetery close to the inhabited area, and several endangered tombs, with numerous skeletons and rich tomb gifts, many of them foreign to the local find repertoire, were excavated. Strontium isotope analyses (see below) of teeth and bones offer the chance to distinguish between indigenous people and immigrants, and as regards the latter, from where they came.

Climatological changes, which affected the entire Eastern Mediterranean and are amongst the reasons suggested for the decline of the Bronze Age world, are often a subject of discussion. The Salt Lake, i.e. the silted-up ancient harbour of Hala Sultan Tekke, is an excellent source for pollen analyses from drilled cores of sediment layers in order to study diachronic changes of the environment due to a changed climate. Important preliminary studies have been carried out by D. Kaniewski and his French team who demonstrated that pollen could be extracted with fairly high precision from the 12th century sediment layers of the Salt Lake. Their preliminary results, yet to be confirmed beyond reasonable doubt, suggest a possible changed climate.

There is at present no study which combines the migration model with the climatic model and is supported by firm physical evidence, i.e. groups of imported finds from secure archaeological contexts and strong evidence of a worsening climate after 1200 BC. Consequently, a synthesis of all aspects which try to explain the Crisis Years does not exist. Therefore, the project will collect all relevant published data from the 12th century BC Eastern Mediterranean in a database. This general database will be supplemented with data from the centre of the upheaval, Cyprus, and will incorporate the results from the visual study of imported and local finds from this period in various museums (see below). New data from studies in the field of natural science will add invaluable information to the database. Consequently, the outcomes of the project will provide an excellent chance of a much better understanding of these events, which took place during a limited period but which had such an enormous influence on the living conditions of humans in a vast area for quite a long time. 


2. Survey of the Field

The oldest historical and pictorial sources from the period which refer to severe attacks from the mysterious Sea Peoples are from the reigns of Pharaohs Merneptha (1213–1203 BC) and Ramses III (esp. from 1175 BC). Sea Peoples invaded Egypt by land and sea, and – according to the famous reliefs from the mortuary temple of Ramses III on the west bank of Luxor in Egypt – they were defeated by Ramses III. From the reliefs we also know how they looked as individuals, how they were dressed and about the nature of their ships and armours: their swords, for instance, are in principle identical with swords from northern Italy (“Naue II” swords; Jung and Mehofer 2005-2006). The reliefs/hieroglyphs inform us that the Sea Peoples comprise several ethnic groups who are named and whose probable origin has been variously interpreted (in brackets): Sherden (Sardinia), Shekelesh (Sicily), Eqwesh (Greek Achaeans), Denyen (Greek Danaoi), Lukka (Lycia/Anatolia), Peleset (Philistines-Mycenaeans-Minoans), Teresh (Tyrrhenians-Etruscans) and Tjeker (Crete).

After these battles the invaders withdrew to Palestine which is mirrored in tales of the Old Testament: one of their ethnic groups, the Philistines, settled in and around the area of today’s Gaza and gave its name to the entire area: Palestine. A clay tablet from Ugarit in Syria contains a message from Ammurapi, the king of Ugarit, to the king of Alasia (Cyprus) where a fatal naval attack on Ugarit (around 1190 BC), before the city was destroyed, is mentioned: “…My father, now enemy ships are coming (and) they burn down my towns with fire. They have done unseemly things in the land!...” (Tablet RS 20.238).

The first to describe the “Sea Peoples” properly was the French Egyptologist G. Maspero (1896). Other publications on the Sea Peoples include N.K. Sanders (1978), T. and M. Dothan (1992), and recently, A. Yasur-Landau (2010) and A.E. Killebrew and G. Lehman (eds. 2013; reviewed by the PI, Fischer 2014). A more popular book with the dramatic title: “1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed” appears last year (Cline 2014). Most of these publications deal with the consequences of disastrous events and the presentation of hypotheses concerning the Crisis Years but well documented proofs of the physical presence of the Sea Peoples at various sites are scanty or even totally absent.

The much discussed “migration model” includes the south-eastward migration of peoples from southern Europe which is considered to be the result of a crisis in northern Italy. This migration affected the Eastern Mediterranean and led to the collapse of the Mycenaean world, the legendary Trojan War, the destruction of cities in Cyprus and the Levant, and the attack on Egypt. Amongst material remains, which are often associated with the Sea Peoples but very rarely recorded in excavations are a special type of bronze sword (the Naue II grip-tongue sword) and a particular type of pottery, namely Hand-made Burnished Ware (aka Barbarian Ware) both of which are assumed to originate in Italy. Barbarian Ware is recorded at Hala Sultan Tekke and most likely – although not recognized as such – at other Cypriot cities. Other objects which are suggested to be ethnic markers and which appear in the Eastern Mediterranean around 1200 BC are, for instance, the Italian-type violin bow fibula  from Hala Sultan Tekke (Fischer and Bürge 2014) and a new type of tool for textile production, the spool-shaped / cylindrical loom weights (Rahmstorf 2005).

Studies on ancient climate which include the Crisis Years have been published by D. Kaniewski and his French team (e.g. Kaniewski et al. 2013), and amongst more general studies on the climate during the past 6000 years the work of M. Finné et. al. (2011) should be mentioned. These publications include either general observations or pilot studies. More specific studies on the climate in Cyprus around 1200 BC are necessary in order to add to our understanding of the reasons behind abandonment/resettlement of large Cypriot urban centres.   

3. Project Description

3.1. General

There is an overall agreement that trade with Cypriot goods in the Bronze Age involved not only the entire Mediterranean but also the remainder of Europe including its northern parts: Cypriot merchandise has been found in excavations of Bronze Age settlements and tombs from Spain in the west to Mesopotamia in the east, and from Egypt in the south to Sweden in the north (Ling et al. 2014). Conversely, foreign goods in Cyprus reflect external influences. 

The high living standard of the Cypriots during the Bronze Age, especially in the 13th century, is based on rich copper ores: since copper (together with lesser amounts of tin) is the main constituent of bronze it was the most sought-after single product at that time (cf. the term “Bronze Age”). Other coveted products of Cyprus were purple-dyed textiles. The large-scale production of both products, copper and textiles, is attested in Cyprus in general and at Hala Sultan Tekke in particular. Consequently, a changed situation in Cyprus had a considerable effect on many other cultures especially as access to bronze is concerned. If we can explain the rationale behind the turmoil in Cyprus we will be in a much better position to clarify how the remainder of Europe was affected during these Crisis Years

3.2. Test of Hypotheses – Methods

A. The Migration Theory and the Domino Effect

Waves of people arrived in Cyprus around 1200 BC as a result of turmoil in Greece and the Aegean islands. They arrived in Cyprus both as immigrating refugees from their Mycenaean homeland Greece and the Aegean islands, and as raiding marauders. Groups of these immigrants continued further east (Northern Levant), south-east (Southern Levant) and South (Egypt). As regards the situation in Cyprus, this model would explain the varying fates of various Cypriot urban centres. There is an agreement that the most important urban centres at that time were – in addition to Hala Sultan Tekke on the south coast: Kition and Pyla-Kokkinokremos to the south, Enkomi and Sinda to the east, and Maa-Paleokastro and Paleopaphos to the west (Fig. 1).[1] Established settlements were destroyed, rebuilt and/or finally abandoned, but also new settlements were founded.

Fig. 1 Map of Cyprus with relevant cities

Map of Cyprus with relevant cities


Test A1: Immigrants – Marauders? The thorough study of the material from Hala Sultan Tekke 2010–2014 and from continued excavations

This test is based on the visual examination of find material already excavated 2010–2014 and additional find material from the continued excavations, supported by a number of scientific methods as listed below. The preliminary examination of new ground-breaking material from these Swedish excavations suggests that the 13th century was a prosperous period with many imports primarily from Mycenae and Egypt but also from Crete, Anatolia and the Levant. Just after 1200 BC the harbour city of Hala Sultan Tekke suffered a serious blow which resulted in its total destruction (the local Stratum 2): Buildings were destroyed and ash covered the entire city. This preliminary date (“after 1200 BC)” is based on a few radiocarbon dates, yet to be narrowed down by additional radiocarbon dating and Bayesian statistics. Numerous new samples from the city prior to the destruction and the destruction layer itself have been prepared for radiocarbon dating which will be carried out during the course of the project. The foreign material will help to answer the questions: who destroyed the city?

This proposed destruction date is most interesting since we know from indisputable historical sources from Egypt that Ramses III fought the invading Sea Peoples in the eighth year of his reign, i.e. 1175 BC, and from inscribed tablets from Ugarit from Syria that the city was attacked and eventually totally destroyed. It should be stressed that Ugarit is only c. 100 km east of Cyprus.

Hala Sultan Tekke was rebuilt in the next Stratum 1 after the catastrophe. In this occupational phase preliminary investigations of the find material indicate that foreign imports from Mycenae and Egypt, the earlier main trading partners, are totally lacking. This suggests a disruption of trade which can be explained by the turmoil in Greece and Egypt, and by insecure trading routes (pirates). Some of the foreign objects most likely came from Italy, for instance, violin bow fibulae of bronze and sherds of Barbarian Ware. These objects point to a group of people with Italian roots who arrived at Hala Sultan Tekke. Since trade with the much closer Mycenaean sphere of culture ceased it is highly unlikely that these objects were traded, but more probable that they came with their owners. The thorough investigation of all foreign objects, including provenance studies, using the methods mentioned below will shed light on these events.

In 2014, a monumental compound, 50 m x 40 m in size, was discovered by georadar. Trial excavations revealed project-relevant finds including imports from northern Italy and elsewhere. The study of new material from this compound during the planned excavations will add further knowledge to the project objectives in the coming years.

Endangered tombs from the city’s cemetery, which was discovered by georadar in 2013, will be excavated in order to study the origins of the buried people and foreign goods.

Methods A1:

-       Study of the excavated material from 2010–14; differentiation between local and imported products by visual examination and scientific provenance studies: INAA, MC-ICP-MS and petrography for ceramics; XRF for grouping of various finds

-       Study of the material from coming seasons (2015–17); differentiation between local and imported products (see previous paragraph)

-       Radiocarbon dating of already prepared short-lived samples and samples from the new excavations (seeds, in order to exclude the “old-wood-effect”, viz. too old dates)

-       Strontium isotope analyses of teeth and bones from human skeletons in order to distinguish between indigenous people and immigrants

-       Programming of the results from the visual and scientific investigations into the Cypriot database.

Test A2: The Re-evaluation of Other Important Cypriot Urban Centres

Based on new insights from the study of fresh and thoroughly investigated material from Hala Sultan Tekke, the re-evaluation of old material from six Cypriot cities excavated earlier will be carried out: Kition, Pyla-Kokkinokremos, Enkomi and Sinda,[2] Maa-Paleokastro and Paleopaphos. These sites are selected for the project because 1. they are major settlements; 2. the material remains are available in various museums; 3. they are (partly) published; and 4. they are well-distributed on the island (see Fig. 1). The visual examination of material from these cities from around 1200 BC, the search for foreign influences/objects and, in consequence, the re-evaluation of the old find material, will be supported by published reports. The visual study will be carried out in four public museums (three Cypriot and one Swedish: the Archaeological Museum Nicosia, Larnaca Archaeological Museum, Paphos Archaeological Museum and Medelhavsmuseet in Stockholm.[3] It is most likely that a number of objects have not been recognized as imports in the published reports. This has been demonstrated by the applicant’s pre-study of selected objects from e.g. Enkomi in the Archaeological Museum in Nicosia.

If we can confirm a similar find pattern which mirrors foreign influences all over Cyprus around 1200 BC, for instance, non-traded finds with clear foreign roots, e.g. simple household objects together with weaponry from the new peoples’ cultures, we will – for the first time – be able to demonstrate an undisputed influx of foreign peoples and to explain the rationale behind the destructive events but also foundations of new settlements and a changed cultural and political situation. The question whether these people were peacefully immigrating refugees or marauding invaders will be answered by specific find contexts from these sites, e.g. destruction layers, repairs and new buildings with altered architecture. 

Methods A2:

-       Study of the material from six contemporaneous cities in four museums; differentiation between local and imported products using the methods listed above under the heading “Methods A1”

-       Programming of the Cypriot database with all results.

-       Radiocarbon dating of short-lived samples from the old excavations

-       Strontium isotope analyses of teeth and bones from human skeletons in order to distinguish between indigenous people and immigrants


Test A3: General Database

The collection of all project-relevant published data, i.e. information on foreign/imported objects, from the 12th century BC Eastern Mediterranean, that is the area from today’s Greece to the Levant, and from Anatolia to Egypt.

Methods A3:

-       Programming of relevant data into the general database

-       Integration of the general database with the Cypriot database. 

B. The Climatological Hypothesis and Relevant Tests 

The study on climate in the Eastern Mediterranean by Finné et al. (2011) roughly demonstrated a period of drier conditions which includes the Crisis Years and which affected both the Italian peninsula and the Eastern Mediterranean. However, the authors point out that for better understanding of the fluctuations within the long period of arid conditions there is a need for well-dated, higher-resolution records from across the Eastern Mediterranean region. They suggest that it would be most rewarding to intensify work in areas where there is a long archaeological record: Cyprus fits these demands to a high extent. The pilot project by Kaniewski et al. (2013) resulted in preliminary data which suggest that the Bronze Age crisis around 1200 BC coincided with the onset of an approximately 300-year drought with possible crop failures, dearth and famine in its wake.

Test B: Climatological Investigations

Cooperation with D. Kaniewski and his French team has been initiated by the PI. Kaniewski is an authority on climatological studies in the Eastern Mediterranean. In order to confirm and enhance the results from his pilot studies he suggested drilling a number of cores in the Salt Lake, the nearby ancient, silted up, harbour of Hala Sultan Tekke, which is ideal for the extraction of pollen from chronologically well-defined layers. The project-specific period (around 1200 BC) will be identified by radiocarbon dating of organic remains in the cores. The pollen records from this period will give information about the vegetation/climate, and the new data will be combined with data already obtained from coastal Syria and elsewhere.

Methods B:    

-       drilled cores down to 5 m from the surface, thus including the 1200 BC period according to pilot studies

-       Radiocarbon dating of organic remains in order to define the correct period

-       SEM pictures for identification of pollen and other organic remains

-       Analyses of the botanical remains

-       Programming of the results from the Salt Lake, Syria etc. into the databases

3.3. Project organisation

PI: Peter M. Fischer

The project is supervised by the applicant, who is 50% senior professor of Cypriot archaeology at the Institute for Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg, and who has 38 years of experience of field work in Cyprus, Greece, Jordan and Gaza. PI is the head of the Swedish excavations at Hala Sultan Tekke and as such he supervises all field work at Hala Sultan Tekke / Salt Lake including taking samples and the photographic documentation. He is responsible for applying for and receiving the final permits (which are orally granted) for material studies in the listed museums and will distribute them to specialists for analyses. PI will evaluate the analytical results together with the specialists. He will supervise the programming of the databases. He is responsible for interim reports and special studies in peer-reviewed journals, and for the final publication which will appear as a monograph. The PI will also compile popular scientific articles for laymen. He will organize annual interim meetings with participating specialists and a final workshop/conference for invited scholars at the end of the project.   

Associated researcher 1: Professor David Kaniewski

He is one of the leading experts on ancient climate and belongs to the Université Sabatier of Toulouse, France. He is responsible for the climatological studies at the Salt Lake at Hala Sultan Tekke. His team will drill cores at the bottom of the dried-up Salt Lake and sample botanical remains which will be used to draw conclusions about the climate around 1200 BC and later (radiocarbon dating of the botanical remains). Scanning electron microscope pictures will be taken for identification and study of botanical remains, i.e. pollen, spores, microfossils, fruits, seeds and carbonized wood. He will coordinate the Cypriot results with those from, inter alia, Syria. 

Associated researcher 2: Professor Eva Maria Wild

She belongs to the VERA laboratory of the University of Vienna, one of the highest ranked 14C-laboratories world-wide. She will carry out high-precision radiocarbon dating of short-lived samples supported by Bayesian statistics.

Associated researcher 3: Dr. Johannes Sterba  

He belongs to the Institute of Atomic and Subatomic Physics, University of Technology, Vienna. He will carry out provenance studies of pottery neutron activation analysis (INAA) using the comparative INAA-database at the University of Bonn established by Professor Hans Mommsen, leading expert on INAA-studies.

Other participating researchers

Dr. Teresa Bürge, University of Tübingen, Germany, and Austrian Academy of Sciences, studies in museums and of publications, programming of databases, co-responsible for new publications, organization of meetings.

Architect Muwafaq Albataineh, University of Irbid, Jordan, digitalized object drawings and plans, 3-D reconstructions of find contexts, preparation of illustrations for publications. Research associated with the PI since 1995.


3.4. Timetable (2016–2019)

2016-01-01 – 2016-12-31

-       Study of find material from the excavations at Hala Sultan Tekke 2010–2014, and the new material from 2015 (expedition May-June 2015)

-       Sampling of material for radiocarbon dating, INAA, MC-ICP-MS and petrography for ceramics; XRF (expedition’s X-ray fluorescence device) for grouping of various finds

-       AMS radiocarbon dating of already prepared, short-lived, samples and of those from the new excavations

-       Strontium isotope analyses of teeth and bones from human skeletons in order to distinguish between indigenous people and immigrants

-       Climatological project at the Salt Lake according to “Methods B” above

-       Programming of the general and Cypriot databases

-       Drawings of finds and contexts

-       Preparation of preliminary reports for publication in peer-reviewed journals; workshop with presentation of results.

2017-01-01 – 2017-12-31

-       Study of the material from six old excavations in four museums; differentiation between local and foreign finds; re-evaluation of published material

-       Radiocarbon dating of short-lived samples

-       Strontium isotope analyses of teeth and bones from human skeletons

-       Parallel with the study of the old material the investigation of the material from the continued excavations in 2016 of the new discoveries according to above methods

-       Evaluation of the results from the field work at the Salt Lake and, if necessary, additional drill holes

-       Programming of the general and Cypriot databases

-       Drawings of finds and contexts

-       Preparation of preliminary reports for publication in peer-reviewed journals; workshop with presentation of results.

2018-01-01 – 2018-12-31

-       Study of the material from six old excavations in four museums; differentiation between local and foreign finds; re-evaluation of published material

-       Parallel with the study of the existent material evaluation of the material from the continued excavations in 2017 of the new compound (see above)

-       Evaluation of the results from the field work at the Salt Lake and other sites

-       Programming of the general and Cypriot databases

-       Drawings of finds and contexts

-       Preparation of preliminary reports for publication in peer-reviewed journals; workshop with presentation of results.

2019-01-01 – 2019-12-31

-       Evaluation of the results through the combined database

-       Organisation of final workshop/conference

-       Preparation of final publication   


Scientific Significance

The results from this project will have a considerable impact on the interpretation of one of the most intriguing phenomena in human history: the decline of highly developed cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age, starting in the 12th century BC. The outcomes will also contribute to a better understanding of the situation in the remainder of Bronze Age Europe: interrupted trade routes, a cultural decline and a worsening of general living conditions. The widespread movement of peoples, the appearance of the Sea Peoples in the Eastern Mediterranean and the effect of climatological changes will be explained or at least better understood.

The multidisciplinary approach, which involves historical sources and archaeological results in combination with scientific methods using chemical and physical analyses, is a precondition for the project. The prospect of high-level research carried out by extremely experienced scholars and the long-term permission of local antiquity authorities, which also includes the possibility of exporting material for advanced scientific analyses,[4] are all factors creating a firm ground for a successful completion of the project.  

The publication potential for specialised articles in top-ranking international journals is of the highest order. One can simply state that the interest in studying and explaining the collapse of the Bronze Age world has increased considerably over the last decade (see e.g. Fischer and Bürge 2013 in one of Germany’s highest ranking archaeological journals). The decision of the European Science Foundation (ESF, EW13-107) in 2014 to finance a conference on the Sea Peoples which was organised by the applicant at the Austrian Academy in Vienna in November 2014 confirms this claim: the ESF reviewers commented in their decision on the PI’s application: " … one of the most important projects for the history of this area. It tackles an 'up-to-date' scientific problem that is significant for research in the next decade ... the project will bring together a series of excellent experts on the subject and the specific period." The successful conference collected high-profile scholars. Proceedings with the applicant as editor are forthcoming (autumn 2015).

Preliminary results

The potential of the new discoveries at the large Late Bronze Age city of Hala Sultan Tekke in Cyprus for the project is beyond any doubt. However, the material already excavated needs additional archaeological studies and scientific analyses including chemical investigations, radiocarbon and strontium isotope analyses. In the course of the project additional project-relevant material will be produced from the recently discovered large compound where trial excavations demonstrated imported/foreign material of the highest relevance to the project: the new material must be dealt with and integrated into the general project aims. The preliminary results from the pilot study by D. Kaniewski are extremely promising. There is a running database concerning the results from 2010 to 2014 which needs continuous updates with new material from Hala Sultan Tekke and data from the 12th century BC from other excavations.     

International and national collaboration

High-profile researchers will participate in the project. Dr. D. Kaniewski from the University of Toulouse is a leading authority on ancient climate. Professors Eva Maria Wild and Walter Kutschera, specialists in radiocarbon dating and Bayesian statistics at the VERA radiocarbon laboratory at the University of Vienna, have been cooperating with the applicant for several decades. VERA, under the long-term direction of Professor Walter Kutschera, is top-ranked worldwide amongst radiocarbon laboratories. Preparation of ceramic samples and NAA analyses will be carried out by Dr. Johannes Sterba from the Institute of Atomic and Subatomic Physics, University of Technology, Vienna. The NAA results will be compared with those from the world’s largest database concerning NAA ceramic analyses of late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean pottery, which has been created by Professor Hans Mommsen at the University of Bonn. Dr. Torbjörn Brorsson, Höganäs, Sweden, is a well-known specialist in ceramic studies with MC-ICP-MS. Dr. T. Douglas Price, geochemist at the Laboratory of Archaeological Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, is one of the foremost experts on Strontium-isotope-analyses (recent recipient of the Felix Neubergh Prize at the University of Gothenburg).


Cline, E.H.

2014    1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed. Princeton and Oxford.

Dothan T. and Dothan, M.

1992    People of the Sea. The Search for the Philistines. New York.

Finné, M., Holmgren, K., Sundqvist, H.S., Weiberg, E. and Lindblom M.

2011    Climate in the Eastern Mediterranean, and Adjacent regions, during the Past 6000             Years: A Review. Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 31533173.

Fischer, P.M.

2014    Review of: Killebrew, A.E. and Lehmann, G. (eds.): The Philistines and Other Sea           Peoples in Text and Archaeology. Atlanta, Georgia: Society of Biblical Literature,         (Archaeology and Biblical Studies 15) 2013, in: Bibliotheca Orientalis. Leiden. To be      published autumn 2014.  

Fischer, P.M. and Bürge, T.

2013    Cultural Influences of the Sea Peoples in Transjordan: The Early Iron Age at Tell Abu al-Kharaz. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 129/2: 132-170.

2014    The New Swedish Cyprus Expedition 2013: Excavations at Hala Sultan Tekke. Preliminary Results. Opuscula. Annual of the Swedish Institutes in Athens and Rome 7: 61–106.

Jung, R. and Mehofer, M.

2005-2006       A Sword of Naue II Type from Ugarit and the Historical Significance of Italian-    type Weaponry in the Eastern Mediterranean. Aegean Archaeology 8. Studies and   Monographs in the Mediterranean Archaeology and Civilizations Ser. II, Vol. 9:   111135.

Kaniewski, D., Van Campo, E., Guiot, J., Le Burel, S., Otto, T. and Baeteman, C.

2013    Environmental Roots of the Late Bronze Age Crisis. Plos One, Vol. 8, Issue 8,      e71004.

Killebrew, A.E. and Lehmann, G. (eds.)

2013    The Philistines and Other "Sea Peoples" in Text and Archaeology. Atlana, Georgia.

Ling, J., Stos-Gale, Z., Grandin, L., Billström, K., Hjärtner-Holdar, E. and Persson, P.O.

2014    Moving Metals II: Provenancing Scandinavian Bronze Age Artefacts by Lead Isotope      and Elemental Analyses. Journal of Archaeological Science 41: 106132.

Maspero, G.

1896    The Struggle of the Nations: Egypt, Syria and Assyria. New York.

Rahmstorf, L.

2005    Ethnicity and Changes in Weaving Technology in Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean in the 12th Century BC, in: Cyprus: Religion and Society: from the Late            Bronze Age to the End of the Archaic Period: Proceedings of an International       Symposium on Cypriot Archaeology, Erlangen 23-24 July 2004. Münster: 143–169.

Sanders, N.K.

1978    The Sea Peoples. Warriors of the Ancient Mediterranean. London.

Singer, I.

2000 New Evidence on the End of the Hittite Empire, in: Oren, E.D. (ed.), The Sea Peoples         and Their World. A Reassessment. Philadelphia: 21–33.

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2010    The Philistines and Aegean Migration at the End of the Late Bronze Age. Cambridge.


[1] The northern sites from this period, which are in the Turkish zone, are inadequately documented and, in addition, not accessible for political reasons. 

[2] Both Sinda and Enkomi have been partly excavated by Swedish teams in the past, i.e. 1920s–1940s.

[3] The bulk of finds in Medelhavsmuseet, both on display and in the magazines, are actually from Cyprus. They embody the world’s largest collection of Cypriot antiquities outside Cyprus.

[4] Cyprus is unique in this respect. There are no other countries in the area from where samples can be exported.