Confusing the Sea Peoples

James Thomas
Aug 5, 2011 · 3 min read

There has always been several very persuasive almost ‘pleading with you to recognise them’ factors as to whom the enemies engaged by Ramesses III in both naval and the land engagements really are, even if you don’t follow any of the written accounts and just base you deductions on the friezes and other similar art.

One of the single overriding factors though, although not on its own a conclusive one, but an important factor that should trump all others when considering the type of people from which the sea peoples shown at Medinet Habu are related to is their very conspicuous lack of facial hair and short hair coupled to their very profound European or more relevant Minoan complexion.

There are however two examples of warriors depicted in very similar fashion to the sea peoples who wear the feather styles head dress both from Enkomi in Cyprus although they both spout beards, this again could be the Carthaginian example all over, though how these people saw themselves in art as compared to the Egyptians is another mater.

Whether this is a racial indicator much like central and north American peoples who do not have any body and facial hair cannot be ascertained since all traces of any painted facial hair that might have been present in these carvings has disappeared long ago. Or whether a cultural indicated — this should beg the question that with all these markers AND written text it should be obvious as to where in the Mediterranean world they originated from even if the process of migration had started decades before and new settlements established along the way.

There are but a few examples at Medinet Habu that show clean shaven prisoners, those being of notable description the Hittite captives and a strange individual who seem to have the appearance of a Hittite yet wears a Libyan cloak and groin protection device so typical of Libyan warriors.

The tasselled kilt which seems to be prevalent in all but a few of the peoples who joined in war against Ra-messes III cannot be taken as being solely an identifier of national costume or combat garb as it is also what Egyptian soldiers are dressed in, the slight blue with red corner or red with blue corner as seen in the better preserved section at Medinet Habu gives a clear indication of identification though.

This is a bit like the Exomis, Aspis shield, Kopis Sabre and Xiphos Short Sword along with styles of helmets of Greek origin in use by the Carthaginian infantry — all Greek by origin but note solely used by Greeks.

Much like this illustration of Greek cavalry running down a Carthaginian infantryman at the battle of Crimisos River by the military illustrator Johnny Schumate. To all intense and purposes the Carthaginian is equipped as a Greek Hoplite the only few identifiers that distinguish him from being identified as a Greek Hoplite are the two vertical purple pars on his Exomis and the emblem of a horse in front of a date palm on his shield. If this scene was reproduced much like that at Medinet Habu one would clearly think the individual being chased was a Greek in conflict with Greeks from a different city state the colours all having disappeared long ago and the shield motif either defaced or lost or painted on.


A study of the Bronze Age by James Thomas

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