The Other Golden Age of Piracy — The Era of the Sea Peoples,
When Spain conquered much of Central and South America a golden age of piracy occurred as buccaneers and privateers flocked to the Caribbean to steal their share of Spanish gold. However piracy is a phenomenon as old as seafaring itself, and thousands of years before notorious pirates such as Blackbeard and Bartholomew Roberts, another band of pirates known as “The Sea Peoples” terrorized the ancient Mediterranean, creating an earlier golden ages of piracy that rivaled that of the pirates of the Caribbean.
The Sea Peoples terrorized the Mediterranean around the 12th and 11th century BC. Very little detailed information is known about the Sea Peoples, and most of what is in recorded history comes from Egyptian sources, especially from the court of Ramses III. Essentially the Sea Peoples were a large band of pirates who raided ships, stole treasure, and murdered all who got in their way. However the Sea Peoples were much more than just mere buccaneers. The extent of their raiding was such that entire cities, kingdoms, and empires were sacked by the marauders. It was not uncommon for the Sea Peoples to show up unannounced, massacre any military forces that protected a city, take everything of value, then disappear as quickly as they had arrived. Even whole nations and empires fell to the Sea Peoples. An inscription at the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III the notes the nature of a Sea People’s invasion,
“The lands were removed and scattered to the fray. No land could stand before their arms, from Hatti, Kode, Carchemish, Arzawa, Alashiya all being cut down.”
The Sea Peoples were even responsible for the fall of the Hittite Empire, a superpower that rivaled Egypt during the Bronze Age. After the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BC, the Hittites (modern day Turkey) became a victim of a series of massive raids by the Sea People’s. The Sea Peoples ravaged all ports and cities along the Mediterranean coast and Black Sea. They even ventured inland, sacking various cities all over Anatolia. When nothing of value was left to take, the Sea Peoples disappeared and never returned. However the Hittite Empire was left so weakened by the attacks, that the empire eventually collapsed, being conquered by the Assyrians. The only empire noted for being able to successfully fend off the Sea Peoples were the Egyptians, where Ramses III personally destroyed a marauder fleet and army at the mouth of the Nile River.
What is most perplexing is that no one knows for certain who the Sea Peoples were. The prevailing theory, based on modern archaeological evidence and ancient records, suggests that the Sea Peoples were not one people, but a multitude of different ethnicity’s. The time period around the 12th and 11th century BC today is known as the “Bronze Age Collapse”, a tumultuous period caused by famine, war, the fall of civilizations such as Mycenaean Greece and Troy, and the migration of new Indo-European nomads from the east, such as the Dorians and Persians. As a result, a large population of disaffected people from all over the Mediterranean who became pirates and marauders in order to make a living. Archaeological evidence of many Sea People sites show that they were an odd mix of Mycenaean Greeks, Hittites, Philistines, Proto-Celts, Trojans, exiled Minoans, Sicilians, Italic peoples, and Phoenicians.
Sea People attacks occurred far and wide, evidence suggests that the Sea Peoples may have gone as far as Spain, Britain, and even the Baltic. By the end of the 11th century BC Sea People raids began to dwindle and cease, as the political and environmental situation in the region settled, and the Sea Peoples began to settle colonies throughout the Mediterranean.
Carved jade dragons or birds were worn as pendants in ancient China. When the owners died their pendants were buried with them. This piece in the form of a coiled dragon was made in the 12th-11th century BC, by which time jade carvers usually added more details to the surface.
Humans have spent eons looking up at the night sky with wonder and mapping it by creating constellations, gathering information, and using it to impose a sense of order on the vastness of space.
From the earliest days of astronomy, though, the answers we’ve found have served to create further questions, and with them the need for finer instruments that provide more complete data. The naked eye isn’t nearly sufficient for viewing stars closely or tracking their movements in detail, much less plumbing the depths of space. From early devices that used celestial bodies to tell travelers the time of day to the space-based telescopes now capturing images of the cosmos in unprecedented detail, ever-more intricate instruments have helped us get a better look at—and understanding of —the universe and our place in it.
Prior to the development of reliable clocks, sundials, which tell the time of day by the position of the Sun, were a method of choice for determining lunch hour, coffee breaks, and quitting time for millennia. By the 17th century, portable dials became popular with people like soldiers and merchants, who were always on the go. Some, like the ivory-encased affair pictured above, could be adjusted to tell the correct time at a variety of different latitudes.
The Sun wasn’t the only heavenly body used for telling time. This rosewood dial crafted in 17th-century Italy was designed to align with the pointer stars of the Big Dipper, letting users determine the time of day even in the dead of night—provided they had a clear sky.
Astrolabes, which could locate and predict the movement of heavenly bodies like the Moon, planets, and stars, were first developed in the 11th century BC and were refined throughout the ages. Examples like this bronze astrolabe, crafted in Persia during the 18th century, were variously used for surveying, telling time, and predicting and charting the movement of stars and planets.
Monumental Double Spiral, Urnfield Period, 12th - 10th century BC
An unusually large example made of square wire, the upper edges with decorative notches in some places. Beautiful dark green patina. Width 21 cm.
The Urnfield culture (c. 1300 BC – 750 BC) was a late Bronze Age culture of central Europe. The name comes from the custom of cremating the dead and placing their ashes in urns which were then buried in fields. The Urnfield culture followed the Tumulus culture and was succeeded by the Hallstatt culture. The Urnfield culture is the earliest archaeological period that can be justifiably considered Proto-Celtic.
Egyptian Faience Hippo, Middle Kingdom, 11th-12th Dynasty, C. 2000 BC
Hippo figures served as grave goods in the Middle Kingdom, as the hippopotamus was a symbol for regeneration in the afterlife. The drawings on the figure are meant to mimic the natural habitat of the animal. Here the hippo is surrounded by lotus buds and flowers with a flying bird overhead, just as it would be in a papyrus thicket. This piece is probably from Thebes.
Middle Assyrian Red Sard Cylinder Seal, South Mesopotamia, 12th-11th century BC
Showing a griffin-demon (apkallu) tearing a branch from a tree.
This is an unusual seal with regards to the typical griffin-demon and tree motif in ancient art. In Neo-Assyrian glyptic and monumental art, griffin-demons are often portrayed in the action of fertilizing the female blossoms of the date palm. On this seal it seems like the apkallu is picking off a branch instead of fertilizing it.
Urartian Bronze Armory Belt, c. 8th-7th century BC
Urartian belts, which are splendid specimens of their art, have been found in graves in Soviet Armenia and in the province of Kars. This is a section of an armory belt, decorated with three bands separated by rows of wave motifs; each band containing, from left to right, a winged lion with sword, a stylized tree, a leaping winged lion, a winged centaur-like creature with bow and arrow, and a leaping winged deer; rows of palmettes above and below; the upper and lower edges with perforations for attachments.
Urartu (biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van) was a prehistoric Iron Age kingdom centered around Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands. Assyrian inscriptions of Shalmaneser I (c. 1274 BC) first mention Uruartri as one of the states of Nairi – a loose confederation of small kingdoms and tribal states in Armenian Highland in the 13th to 11th centuries BC, which he conquered.
Urartu re-emerged in Assyrian inscriptions in the 9th century BC as a powerful northern rival of Assyria. The Nairi states and tribes became a unified kingdom under king Aramu (c. 860 – 843 BC). It reached its peak of power in the 9th and 8th centuries. Urartu was eventually conquered by the Medes in the early 6th century BC and the Urartian Kingdom was eventually replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty.
Limestone Kudurru (boundary stone, 11th century BC) from the reign of Marduk-nadin-ahhe -Babylonian king, the sixth of the Second Dynasty of Isin. He was the brother of the famous NebuchadrezzarI and pursued his brother’s policy of extending Babylonian influence. The final years of the king were troubled by numerous incursions of enemies, severe famines and droughts. The circumstances of his death are not known; according to Assyrian sources, he “disappeared.”
The kudurru consists of a block of black limestone, rising to a point. It has been rubbed down on four sides to take inscriptions, and the upper portion, from the point where it begins to taper, is carved with symbols. Larger symbols are resting on the serpent’s body and on the ledge above the inscription, some animals like a sitting dog, a bird on perch, a horned dragon, a ram-headed crook upon shrine and a goat-fish and.
The cuneiform inscription contains a deed recording a grant of land by Marduk-nadin-ahhe to Adad-zer-ikisha in return for services rendered during a campaign against Assyria. An addition to the text records that the king subsequently confirmed the gift under his own seal.
The Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Gates of the Kings, is a valley in Egypt where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the Pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom (the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Dynasties of Ancient Egypt). The valley stands on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Thebes (modern Luxor), within the heart of the Theban Necropolis. The wadi consists of two valleys, East Valley (where the majority of the royal tombs are situated) and West Valley.
With the 2005 discovery of a new chamber (KV63), and the 2008 discovery of two further tomb entrances, the valley is known to contain 63 tombs and chambers (ranging in size from KV54, a simple pit, to KV5, a complex tomb with over 120 chambers). It was the principal burial place of the major royal figures of the Egyptian New Kingdom, together with those of a number of privileged nobles. The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues to the beliefs and funerary rituals of the period. Almost all of the tombs seem to have been opened and robbed in antiquity, but they still give an idea of the opulence and power of the Pharaohs. This area has been a focus of archaeological and egyptological exploration since the end of the eighteenth century, and its tombs and burials continue to stimulate research and interest. In modern times the valley has become famous for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun (with its rumours of the Curse of the Pharaohs), and is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. In 1979, it became a World Heritage Site, along with the rest of the Theban Necropolis. Exploration, excavation and conservation continues in the valley, and a new tourist centre has recently been opened. Read more