Between 1250 and 1000 BC, all of the major civilisations of the Bronze Age suddenly collapsed. No one knows why. Climate change? Volcanoes? Drought? Or was it because of an invasion by the shadowy and unidentified Sea Peoples? Archaeologists claim that a 3,200-year-old stone slab has the answer.
The Late Bronze Age collapse brought a violent end to all the major urban centres and governing systems of the Mediterranean, the Aegean, and most of Southwest Asia. The Hittite Empire fell and the New Kingdom of Egypt fragmented and lost a bunch of its colonies. Almost every city between Pylos and Gaza was destroyed, with scores of others abandoned. The collapse sparked a period of turmoil, famine and mass migration, and left behind the isolated village cultures of the Greek Dark Ages.
Nobody knows what or who caused the Late Bronze Age collapse. Scholars have long suspected that a mysterious seafaring confederation known only as the ‘Sea Peoples’ may have had something to do with it. Now archaeologists have managed to decipher the ancient symbols on a 3,200-year-old, 29-metre-long limestone frieze, shedding new light on these maritime conquerors.
The stone was found in the 19th century in what is now modern Turkey. Its inscription is the longest known hieroglyphic inscription from the Bronze Age and written in an ancient language called Luwian, which only about 20 scholars on the planet can actually read.