Overlooking the Obvious

James Thomas
Aug 5, 2011 · 9 min read

Figure.12. Clearly shows the distinctive head gear worn by the dominant group represented as the Sea Peoples, the appearance of clean shaven individuals with short hair is apparent.

Whilst figure.13. Shows a reconstruction as to what they may have looked like, the illustration from Peter Connolly’s “The Legend of Odysseus”, a wonderful rendition of the life of Odysseus and the Trojan War.



There is no doubt in the material presented here,so far, that the Egyptians clearly knew their adversaries very well. The detail, even though the greater majority of colour has now disappeared, which would help in further in burying any uncertainty as to their origins tells us without no uncertain terms that the origins of the two main Groups represented in both Land and Sea battle Scenes were known to the Egyptians. The Egyptians knew it, the allies that fought with Ramesses knew it, and those whom allied themselves with these foreigners from across the sea knew it, the only people whom don’t seem to know it is — ourselves!

When statements like “The identity of the Sea Peoples may never truly be known” or “Their origins are lost to time” and “There is a strong belief now as to the Aegean and Minoan as well as Cypriot origins of the Sea Peoples”, one can understand the confusion the reader must feel as to determining where they actually came from even if the Medinet Habu scenes and likewise don’t allow an obvious connection of the dots.

Archaeology has shown with increasing regularity in recent decades that the Minoan-Aegean, Cypriot and the Coastlines of Western Asia Minor to be the origination of these peoples, there is no need to find connections with Northern Europe, the fact alone should, if no archaeology does, show a complete myopia amongst certain minds, the logistics alone of moving entire populations as far back as the end of the bronze age across an entire continent via land and sea is just nonsensical. These hypotheses are just too far fetched to be taken seriously, that because the Sea Peoples look European they therefore must come from Northern Europe speaks volumes as to the late 20th — early 21st century mind set.

There is neither the need to look answers in far flung locations for the origins of the Sea People or to postulate them, an interesting statement was made in Michael York’s In Search of The Trojan War series in Episode5 — The Empire of The Hittites, where the then Dr. Kenneth Kitchen of Liverpool University, expert in Bronze Age International Relations, describes the status of the Achaean Greek Kingdoms had in Near Eastern Diplomacy, that the Egyptian attitude to the Achaean Mycenaean Greeks as Foreigners on the edge of Civilization, The Outer Rim of the World in which they knew, right out on the Northern edge the Hau Nebu these little Islands of foreigners, what we call Greeks and others right on the outer margins.

Now if by logical reasoning the Achaean Greeks were known by this description, how then can the Egyptians have known of anyone from beyond the Aegean world proper let alone Northern Europe and ascribe them as some books have as being Northern European.

If it is the case then why is there no mention of any other bronze age southern European peoples or culture of trading significance to the Egyptians and the Levant, let alone central or northern European peoples by the Egyptians this would imply that the bronze age trade network was far far more extensive than previously known and yet none of the peoples known to have inhabited Central and Northern Europe at that time are given even the remotest mentioning by the Egyptians in their records.

It not only smacks of a lack of real research and understanding but hints at the fact that the peoples of the European Mediterranean in the Bronze Age in general were so much alike that the Egyptians, to coin a phrase — couldn’t tell them apart. That because they look European they couldn’t possibly have come from Achaean Greece or Crete , Western Asia Minor or Cyprus. If you read the following descriptions you’ll begin to understand that some commentators knew very little in the way of the actual appearance and background to the peoples of Greece and the Aegean and Crete.

Very interesting historical commentaries about the Greeks are given throughout classical records alluding to their appearance and such Comments as the following by Greek historians as to the appearance of the Achaeans and Dorians.

It will help us to understand the general appearance of the Mycenaeans and those who inhabited the Greek world as another important connector, of many I will be introducing, to the Medinet Habu images of those Peoples depicted in the Sea and Land Battle Friezes.

In figures.14. Through to .16. we can see a clear representation of what the Egyptians considered and knew to be Sea Peoples, the fact that this particular People are represented with such importance at Medinet Habu raises an important question, in both the land and sea battles shown ,if only to the untrained eye, that they were great in number and on the move.

For an entire people,or a great number of them, to embark on such a mass migration implies a catastrophe of regional proportions or a series of events culminating in population movements that owe their origins to major conflicts arising from Civil War through to scarcity of resources and environmental changes effecting agricultural production such as one of the greatest natural events witnessed by man in antiquity — the Volcanic Eruption of the Island of Minoan Thera.

One could call this a civilization ending event with both Thera, and surrounding Isles, and Crete’s Northern Coastal cities and settlements feeling the full force of the consequences of massive ash cloud fall-out and huge Tsunamis, all easily capable of destroying grain production and laying waste to fleets of ships, so vital for trade, commerce and prosperity.

The fact that no human remains to date have be found by excavations on Thera suggests a massive evacuation but as to the timing of these evacuations and final destinations of the population one can only speculate. There is no data to date that I am aware of that shows conclusively that the population of Thera went exclusively to Crete only to be dealt another catastrophe of multiple Tsunamis once the arrived on Crete’s northern shores.

In fact if you look carefully at a map of the Aegean there is a great deal of sea between Thera and Crete and the direction, spread and final deposition of the ash fall-out would suggest that the best direction to take to escape this catastrophe would be to sail North and West towards the Northern Aegean, the Peloponnese and mainland Greece and not initially South, East and South-Easterly right into the direction of movement of Thera’s Ash cloud.

It does also raise the question that this region between Thera and Crete must have, in the past, before the Theran Eruption, felt many such events, albeit on a smaller scale, and such events as tsunamis and possibly some ash-fall been produced. The question remains that did the Minoan Thalassocracy, a Sea-Trading orientated Naval Super Power for over a thousand years, of which Thera was a part of, must have accumulated amongst it’s naval tradition and sailing community the records or such events allowing them to interpret the best possible escape routes.

A sea-power such as the Minoans would have held an accumulated wealth of this kind of knowledge as vital to their sea-borne success not just for trading purposes alone and just for the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean region but also across the Western half of the Mediterranean Sea, a topic I will discuss further in another entry, and have had an intimate understanding of the sea and sky via seasonal wind patterns and oceanographic currents and their direction.

If the Therans or should we call them Minoans of Thera did indeed manage to flee the main Eruption and head across to the coast of Lykia then move along the coastline of Pamphligonia and across to Cyprus and the Levant and eventually to Canaan and Egypt it might go some way to describing one or part of the Sea Peoples contingents that appear in the Naval and Land Battle friezes at Medinet Habu, Thera would have certainly been known to the Egyptians directly or indirectly so through their Minoan and Mycenean contacts and a name given to them. What that name was Is not known in any certainty for sure but a possible name might appear at Medinet Habu.

A publication worthy of note here is the recent publication called — Minoans In The Central, Eastern And Northern Aegean :- New Evidence : Acts of A Minoan Seminar 22–23 January 2005. In this book previously unpublished findings from the Minoan Palace Periods unearthed from both Major and smaller excavations (Pre-2005) from Aegean sites on Thera, Ios, Karpathos, Rhodes, Lemnos and Samothrace whilst from the western coast of Asia Minor from the Urla peninsula, Teichoussa, Iasos, Miletus and Troy.

It covers discussions on artefacts ranging from Pottery, Loom weights, administrative and sealed documents, Architecture and other smaller findings and their relation to Trade and the region’s Minoanising and colonization.

Figure.14. Captive Sea People are lead away in shackles, Their distinctive appearance stands out amongst all those depicted at Medinet Habu and shows a clear understanding amongst the Egyptian Artists of morphology.

Figures.15.&.16. Are close-ups of figure.14 showing the last three Sea People captives, when compared to other fallen enemies of Ramasses III can be clearly seen as distinctive and suspiciously Minoan-Aegean in appearance.



What is most intriguing and just as elusive in identifying any peoples that the Egyptians came to contact with ore had knowledge of is their names. This poses a dilemma and is what did the Therans called themselves and what more importantly did the Egyptians call them. The decipherment of linguistic tags the Egyptians gave to all the peoples that were known to them and the number of other peoples of phonetically similar sounding names can

The factors of Morphology, Phonology and Material culture along with accurate and conclusive Archaeological dating and analysis of finds are the most reliable tools for building the correct picture as a single mispronunciation of a single name can lead to a completely different and erroneous conclusion, thus muddying the waters further still.

One very important example of how a name if mispronounced can lead to a completely conclusion and result in a different location and Peoples takes me back to the interesting example cited in Tim Severin’s The Ulysses Voyage — Sea Search for The Odyssey, in Chapter Nine — Circe And The Halls Of Hades. And the issue concerning the Fog-Dwelling Cimmerians. The following extract is taken fro the book and perfectly describes the point at issue.

“The distinguished English Classicist G.L. Huxley having explored and trekked all over the Epirus region compiled a gazetteer of ancient geography. From this he was able to conclude and give a very satisfactory explanation for Homer’s reference to the Fog-dwelling Cimmerians, who were to be found near the Hall of Hades.

Huxley pointed out that on the coast of Epirus in Greece, not far from a Mycenaean Place of Worship for the Dead known s the Nekymanteion was a place that had been called Cheimerion. The name was applied sometimes to the headland, now Cape Varlan, sometimes to the area, sometimes to the people living there. The name itself implied ‘stormy’. Surely Huxley argued, this explained Homer’s puzzling reference to the ‘fog bound Cimmerians’ :they were no more than the misspelt Cheimerieis. It was a simple yet elegant solution to an artificially complicated problem, and fitted very well. The subsequent edition of theCambridge Ancient History tacitly admitted that the Nekymanteion had emerged as the leading candidate for the ‘Halls of Hades’”.

It’s attention to this kind of detail and the hard work of Individuals like G.L. Huxley who actually went out to these regions and did their research that gave us the insight that to some extent shows that language can sometimes be a bigger barrier to understanding that one would expect and that sometimes but not always the slight alteration of just a few letters or their pronunciation from one culture to another can make detecting the origins of a particular people seem like the proverbial needle in a haystack scenario. If you look at the two locations given to the Cimmerians and the Cheimerieis you’ll find a huge geographical separation of locations,different cultures and different geography.


A study of the Bronze Age by James Thomas

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store