sea peoples

Banyai Banyai at
Thu Mar 15 05:11:23 EST 2001

Ian Hutchesson wrote:

> The nearest thing to an amphictyony I have seen in all of this affair is the
> aggregation of populations to form that loose movement of invading forces
>  which
> first manifested itself in single movements which began to be felt by the
>  Egyptians
> with the Lukka (Lycians), Sherden (Sardinians) and the Meshwesh (perhaps
>  Mopsos)
> crossing the Mediterrannean during the reign of Ramses II. Next came the the
> troubles which the Hittites had with peoples on their western front, a
>  movement led
> by the Ahhiyawaya (in Hittite, Achaeans in Greek, "Eqwesh" in Egyptian and
>  perhaps
> Hivite in Hebrew) in about 1240. 

I am perfectly on your side. Please note the presence of the Turusha, probably 
Taruisa (Troy?), in the second movement. We know about a serious famine in the 
Hittite empire, Menreptah sent on this occasion grains to the aid of the Hittite. 
However he calls them infidelous since they let their subjects go (the Turusha) 

We also read about a great famine which determined the departure of the Tyrsenoi 
(that is the Etrusks) from Lydia. 

This apparently happened before the famous siege of Troy, 10 years before, as the 
Greeks erroneously landed by Smyrna, where the exilants were concentrated to 
leave their country. Parts of the Ahhiyawa may have associated with the Tyrsenoi 
and have set over the sea, and landed making a raid in Lybia. The population of 
Lybia (Maxies) had a confuse memory (during late antique) they came from Troy. 
They are probably a mixed population from Meshwesh and Tyrsenoi. 

They soon after advanced against Egypt, and particularly Menreptah.

These Ahhiyawa can not be the hebr. Hivite since this small coalition came to 
Egypt from Lybia and not from Canaan.

> Within about fifty years the Hittites
>  disappeared
> from the scene, fallen at a time when Ugarit was registering the arrival of
>  people
> in boats attacking its coast. Ugarit then fell into silence along with a
>  number of
> other cities in the trajectory of the sea peoples, cities in Cyprus, cities in
> Syria.
> A letter addressed to the king of Cyprus found in an oven in Ugarit (and
>  therefore
> never sent) says:
> "the enemy ships are already here, they have set fire to my towns and have
>  done
> great damage in the country... did not you know that all my troops were
>  stationed in
> Hittite country, and that all my ships are still stationed in Lycia and have
>  not yet
> returned? So that the country is abandoned to itself..."
> Ugarit was a vassal to the Hittites and was required to supply troops and
>  ships to
> aid the defence of the Hittite empire, but to no avail here. The oven was
>  preserved
> in the destruction layer of the site immediately below the layers of soil
>  which
> built up over the centuries above it. Ugarit died with the arrival of the sea
> peoples.

There is a step too much you take. There is at Ugarit still no coalition. There 
are only the people of Shikila (compare the Eg. Shekelesh), about whom we read, 
they would dwell on their ships. They are probably to be identified with the 
people of the Secha-Fluss-Land under the leadership of the Mopsos/Muksh (as we 
hear about them in the Hittite archives), who activated in this region after 
having been droven out of their country by the Hittite. 

Mopsos, was according to these archives also active in Cyprus, at the side of the 
Achiyawan king. Same problems with Cyprus may be heared from the Ugarit kiln 
correspondence. Later on tryed the last Hittite king to reestablish his hegemony 
over Cyprus. We know from the Troyan legends cyclus, Agamemnon did oust the king 
of Cyprus, Kyniras, who tryed to cheat him, sending instead of the promissed 
boats, miniature reproductions of.

> We only have a few windows on the events because most of the potential
>  witnesses
> were silenced by the sea peoples in their movement around the Mediterrannean
>  from
> Greece around to Egypt. The archaeology is a strong witness of events which
>  reflect
> such a devastating movement. Another witness can be found on the walls of
>  Madinat
> Habu, the mortuary temple of Ramses III, the pharaoh who "defeated" the
> confederation of the peoples from the sea; the net result was more like that
>  he
> stopped them at his door for the Egyptians had effectively lost all their
> possessions in Asia.

We have still a window more: we know about this Mopsos (and he existed indeed, 
since we have the Azitawanda inscription, and the contemporary Hittite 
testimonies) he led his troops, to which associated following the Troyan war also 
a small Thessalian contingent, against Ashkalon, were he died while droping the 
statue of the godess of Ashkalon in the sea. 

The Thessalian link is interesting since the so called Philistine pottery 
displays some northern Greek influences (Metopen-Styl).

So we can assume from this information (cum granum salis) the Shekelesh were more 
or the less foreign mercenaries selected from the defeated troops of Mopsos (we 
have a single destruction of Ashkalon, and it dates before the reign of Ramses 
III - so the defeat of the Shekelesh is the work of the Philistine and not of the 
Egyptians). This is a 50% percent argument, but since we have no first hand 
information about what happened in Philistea, we should tentatively accept 
second-hand information, till we may judge better.

> Ramses III records an invasion which had at its head the Peleset
> (Philistines/Pelasgiotis), followed by the Weshesh (?), Denyen
>  (Danaoi/Danuna/Dan),
> Tjekker (Teucri, may linguistically be the same as), the Shekelesh (Siculi or
> Sicilians). These peoples made a two pronged attack by sea and by land as
>  depicted
> on the walls of Madinat Habu. 

There is nothing what makes the Peleset/Danuna/Tjeker to Sea-Peoples (they are 
never called Sea-Peoples by Ramses) and nothing which should derive them from 

This group represents an ethnic unit, as we may observe it at least at their 
feather-crowns. The feather-crown is typical for the Asiatics in (maybe only 
coastal) Canaan. They appear already in the Beni-Hassan murals as such (second 
intermediate period). God Sopdu (otherwise depicted as an Asiatic) wears the 
feather crown already in the time of Sahure.

By the way, while the "Sea-Peoples" and consequently the islands are presented as 
tormented (Medinet-Habu), the Peleset are said to be in their towns. They are 

The so-called "Philistine" pottery is statistically a marginal production, about 
10% percent of the grave goods, and entirely lacks in the household. 90% percent 
of the ceramic prduction is still the local ware. First one was produced to 
probably replace the ceasing Mycenian imports of certain products in conection 
with the burial rytes. You know "die Botschaft ist die Verpackung".

> It took a number of years for them to move from
>  an
> area south of Ugarit down to the doors of Egypt, so they dwelled at various
> locations on their way. Probably in anticipation of a well-prepared and
>  co-ordinated
> invasion of Egypt they occupied the coast of southern Palestine for some
>  years.

There are no known intermediary stations for the "Sea peoples". This is an 
archaeologically not defensible position. Quite on the contrary, the archaeology 
can not contribute anything to document it.

> Of the populations mentioned by Ramses III, some of them had been heard of
>  before in
> Egyptian sources, with the exception of the Philistines, but then, with the
> difficulties of sourcing one cannot hope to have the full situation, who were
>  all
> the peoples involved.

> The OT/HB tells us that there were Philistines at the time of Abraham. If one
>  wants
> to attempt to do history with this data then we find that there were no
>  Philistines
> in Palestine at the time(s) attributed to Abraham. What we have is the
>  confluence of
> two traditions, one which we can reclaim and date regarding the Philistines,
>  but two
> traditions which were originally independent of each other.

You made a good point. However I must draw your attention upon the fact that our 
present interpretation of the "Sea-Peoples" texts is heavily indebted to the 
Bible. The first archaeologists, who reading about Pi-Ramesse in the Genesis, 
were sensibilised for a particular Ramses as the Pharaoh of the Exodus, have 
,reading about the Peleset from the hand of the same Ramses, connected this 
inscriptions with the Biblical account about the coming of the Kaftorites. 

There is however nothing Kaftoritic about the archaeological Philistine of the 
time of Ramses. 

And the whole is the kind of unproper argument you usually reject, made of a 
naive mixture between Bible and fragmentary antique sources. 

The first historians dealing with the Medinet-Habu inscriptions overlooked 
therefore generously the aspect, that these inscriptions never speak about the 
Philistine as about imigrants, but instead about "the Peleset in their cities". 

They went so far even to invent Peleset representations outside Palestine, that 
is on the Enkomi chest. A close look and comparition with the rest of the 
representations on the chest reveals: there is no feathered warrior on the Enkomi 

Best regards,

Michael Bányai

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