Search the Site


Late Bronze Age Globalization

What we have back in the Late Bronze Age and what we have today are two of the only instances in the history of the world that we know of where we actually have different civilizations all interacting at the same time.

Now, no one would argue with the concept that we’re globalized today, that’s the whole idea. I think many would be surprised to consider that back in the Late Bronze Age they were, in their own way, just as globalized—if we think from Italy on one end, to, say, Afghanistan on the other, and Turkey down to Egypt—that world was all interacting. They were trading; they were dependent upon each other. The tin is coming from Afghanistan; the copper is coming from Cyprus; gold is coming via Egypt from Nubia and the Sudan; and everyone is dependent, frankly, on everyone else and when something bad happens to one, it’s going to impact all of the rest or at least the next one and the next one.

So, one can easily talk in terms of a domino effect or even a multiplier effect; because the interesting thing is we know archaeologically and textually that there are earthquakes at that time. There is a drought; there is climate change—not caused by humans of course, the Hittites are not driving SUVs—but still Mother Nature is causing climate change at that time.

But, people have survived these things, right? You have an earthquake you survive it; you have a drought you survive it; you have famine you survive it. What if you have it all at the same time? What if you have invaders as a result of that?

So I think that’s what happens just after 1200 B.C.E. in 1177 B.C.E. It takes about a century but you’ve got a perfect storm and while you could survive one or maybe two or maybe three, you can’t survive them all. And so when you have this, what I would call a globalized world back then where everyone’s trading with everyone else and they are interdependent, then there is catastrophe when one after the other they fall. That, I think is what we need to start thinking about today.

  • Eric H. Cline

    Dr. Eric H. Cline is professor of classics and anthropology and the current director of the George Washington University Archaeological Institute. He is a National Geographic Explorer, a Fulbright scholar, and an award-winning teacher and author. He has been a member of the Megiddo Expedition, in Israel, excavating biblical Armageddon, since 1994. The author of several books, his most recent is 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Princeton University Press, 2014).