GWU Professor Will Lecture on the Decline of Late Bronze Age Empires

October 27, 2015 - Dr. Eric Cline will examine the swift demise of complex Late Bronze Age empires in the Mediterranean region around the year 1177 BC in the Sesquicentennial Lecture at the University of Memphis. Cline will discuss "1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed" Thursday, Nov. 5, in the University Center Theatre. A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by the lecture at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

For more than 300 years, from about 1500 BC to 1200 BC Egyptians, Mycenaeans, Minoans, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Cypriots and Canaanites all interacted and created a cosmopolitan and globalized world-system. Yet around 1177 BC, these large empires and small kingdoms that had taken centuries to evolve began to rapidly collapse. With their end came the world's first recorded Dark Ages. It was not until centuries later that a new cultural renaissance emerged in Greece and the other affected areas, setting the stage for the evolution of Western society as we know it today.

Blame for these events is usually laid squarely at the feet of the so-called Sea Peoples, known from the records of Egyptian pharaohs. However, as was the case with the fall of the Roman Empire, the end of the Bronze Age empires in this region was not the result of a single invasion, but of multiple causes. The Sea Peoples may well have been responsible for some of the destruction, but it is much more likely that a combination of events, both human and natural – including earthquakes, storms, droughts, famine, rebellions and systems collapse – coalesced to cause such a cataclysmic turn of events. The similarities and parallels that can be drawn with the world today make this more than simply a study in ancient history.

Cline is professor of classics and anthropology, former chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and current director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. A Fulbright scholar and active field archaeologist, he is a three-time winner of the Biblical Archaeology Society's Best Popular Book on Archaeology award and winner of the 2014 Best Popular Book award from the American Schools of Oriental Research for 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed, which was also considered for a 2015 Pulitzer Prize. Cline has authored, co-authored or edited 16 books, which have been published by prestigious presses including Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge, Michigan and National Geographic.

The Sesquicentennial Lecture is jointly sponsored by the Department of History and the Marcus Orr Center for the Humanities.

Contact: Gabrielle Maxey