The naval battle representation on the walls of Ramesses III’s ‘mansion of a million years’ at Medinet Habu (ca. 1175 BCE) stands as one of the earliest, and certainly most detailed, depictions of ship–to–ship combat. It also depicts the only known vessels of Helladic galley type to be depicted with stem–and–stern avian decoration. As such, they have been called upon as evidence for the inclusion of Central Europeans (‘Urnfielders’) in the Sea Peoples coalition(s), and – more recursively – to bolster the view that the highly schematic designs on the stemposts of Helladic galleys were avian in nature. This paper addresses these conclusions and evaluates the evidence that has been presented for an ‘Urnfield’ connection to the Sea Peoples’ ships, along with some notes on the ostensibly avian nature of Helladic galleys’ finial decorations.
In Naval Warfare and Maritime Conflict in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age Mediterranean, Jeffrey P. Emanuel examines the evidence for maritime violence in the Mediterranean region during both the Late Bronze Age and the tumultuous transition to the Early Iron Age in the years surrounding the turn of the 12th century BCE.
There has traditionally been little differentiation between the methods of armed conflict engaged in during the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, on both the coasts and the open seas, while polities have been alternately characterized as legitimate martial actors and as state sponsors of piracy. By utilizing material, documentary, and iconographic evidence and delineating between the many forms of armed conflict, Emanuel provides an up-to-date assessment not only of the nature and frequency of warfare, raiding, piracy, and other forms of maritime conflict in the Late Bronze Age and Late Bronze-Early Iron Age transition, but also of the extent to which modern views about this activity remain the product of inference and speculation.
The Late Bronze Age ended with a bang in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean: palaces and empires collapsed, from Greece to Egypt; coastal territories were beset by pirates and marauders; migratory peoples were on the move across land and sea; and geopolitical lines were permanently redrawn – conditions reflected, in many ways, by the world portrayed in Homer’s Odyssey. The notorious ‘Sea Peoples,’ mysterious groups of warriors who were credited by the pharaoh Ramesses III with destroying empires across the Near East at this time, fit into this puzzle in some way, although their exact role continues to be hotly debated. In the Odyssey’s various subplots, Odysseus himself carries out activities that are that highly reminiscent of the Sea Peoples, as he engages in raids and skirmishes while circuitously making his way back from Troy. Though it is presented as a falsehood within Homer’s master narrative, one such subplot, the “Second Cretan Lie” (Odyssey xiv 191–359) is striking in its similarity to the experience of one specific Sea Peoples group, whom Egyptian pharaohs referred to as the ‘Sherden of the Sea’, and whose seaborne attacks they claimed that “none could withstand.”
This book marshals documentary, pictorial, and material evidence to examine Odysseus’ Second Cretan Lie in the context of the Late Bronze–Iron Age transition, with particular emphasis on changes in the iconography of warriors and warfare, social and economic upheaval, and remarkable innovation in maritime technology and tactics. Particular focus is given the hero’s description of his frequent raiding activities, including an ill–fated attempt on the Nile Delta, and on his description of seven subsequent years spent in the land of the pharaohs, during which he claims to have gathered great wealth. Setting the evidence for the Sherden of the Sea against this Homeric narrative demonstrates not only that Odysseus’ Second Cretan Lie fits into the temporal framework of the Late Bronze–Early Iron Age transition, but that there were historical people who actually lived that which Odysseus falsely claims as his own experience.
The Amarna corpus contains several references to maritime conflict and related activities in the 14th century BCE, including blockades, the movement of troops, the capturing of ships at sea, and seaborne evacuation. While most of these are encountered in the context of conflicts between Levantine polities, there are clear references to what might on the one hand be called piracy, but on the other hand either acts of naval warfare or naval elements of a larger war effort, on both land and sea. This paper considers the martial maritime activities discussed in the Amarna letters, with particular emphasis on two uniquely controversial groups mentioned in this corpus in the context of maritime violence: the ‘ships of the men of the city of Arwad’ and the ‘miši-men.’ While the men of Arwad are identified with a polity on the Phoenician coast, they are referred to only by this collective term, even when mentioned in lists that otherwise contain only rulers. The miši, on the other hand, are not associated with any specific name or toponym. The purpose of this study is to identify just what can be determined about the roles and affiliations of these two groups in their Amarna context in this period.
Perhaps no civilization in history is as associated with the sea as the Phoenicians, whose ships and seafaring ability allowed them to travel, trade, and establish colonies across the Mediterranean. Search and survey operations in the Mediterranean have resulted in the discovery of a limited number of Canaanite, Phoenician, and Punic shipwrecks, which have been found in both deep and shallow water. These assemblages provide valuable evidence of this culture’s critical maritime component, improving our knowledge and understanding of Phoenician and Punic seafaring, while also helping us better understand the written accounts we do possess about these mariners and their activities. Within the last decade in particular, the excavation of the shipwreck at Bajo de la Campana (Spain) has shed new light on Phoenician seafaring and ship construction, while the discovery of the Xlendi Gozo wreck (Malta) has provided new evidence for Phoenician activity in the central Mediterranean. Survey and excavation off the northwest coast of Sicily, in turn, has provided a remarkable material counterpart to the textual evidence for the events at the end of the First Punic War. When combined with the deep-water wrecks off the coast of Ashkelon and the smaller, locally oriented wrecks off the coast of Mazarrón (Spain), a more coherent — albeit still very incomplete — picture of Phoenician and Punic activity begins to take shape.
Emanuel, Jeffrey P. 2019. "Seafaring and Shipwreck Archaeology." In C. López-Ruiz and B. Doak, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Phoenician and Punic Mediterranean. London: Oxford University Press, 423-433.
The difference between warfare and piracy, particularly when it comes to naval conflict in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age Eastern Mediterranean, has been in need of theoretical attention for some time. While both terms are frequently used, the acts themselves remain imprecisely delineated. This paper endeavors to begin the process of exploring to just what degree that is possible.
Emanuel. Jeffrey P. 2018. "Differentiating Naval Warfare and Piracy in the Late Bronze – Early Iron Age Mediterranean: Possibility or Pipe Dream?" In L. Niesiolowski-Spano & M. Węcowski, eds. Change, Continuity, and Connectivity: North-Eastern Mediterranean at the Turn of the Bronze Age and in the Early Iron Age. Contributions to the Study of Ancient World Cultures 118. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 68-80.
The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) is a set of common APIs developed to provide access to digital visual material from libraries, museums, and other repositories without the all-too-frequent need for a common viewing application. By using a common framework to collaborate across institutional silos, Harvard has leveraged the promise of IIIF in multiple functional areas, supporting the adoption of a new Harvard Library Viewer, walls of images in the Harvard Art Museums, and image collections embedded in Canvas and in massive open online courses from HarvardX—all in high resolution, and with unprecedented interactivity.
Emanuel, Jeffrey P. 2018. "Stitching Together Technology for the Digital Humanities with the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF)." In K. Joranson and R. Kear, eds. Digital Humanities, Libraries, and Partnerships (Vol. 1) . Oxford: Chandos Elsevier, 125–135.
Throughout human history, the sea has served as a means of subsistence, transportation, and communication, as well as a place of danger and death. From the time ships first set out with cargo on board, there have probably been pirates lying in ambush either to seize the ships at sea or to attack coastal settlements in search of plunder. This was certainly the case in the Late Bronze Age, even before the chaotic end of this period and beginning of the succeeding Iron Age, around 1200 BC.