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Egytian History the invasions of the Sea Peoples into Egypt 12th Century BCE :

Egyptian history was often recorded as much by their art as by their written records.

The invasion of the Sea Peoples is one of the best documented incursions of a military force into ancient Egypt in Egyptian art history. The invasions occurred in two primary waves over a fifty year period beginning toward the end of the the Twelfth Century BCE during the rule of the Pharaoh Merneptah (1224-1210bc) and climaxing during the reign of Ramesses III 1194-1163bc toward the middle of the the eleventh Century BCE. The exploits of Rameses III are documented on the walls of Medinet Habu and the Invasions which took place during the rule of Merneptah are recorded in the Merneptah tablet. These invasions are some the best recorded in Egyptian History, literally written in stone both of these records have survived in relatively good condition to the present day.

Below is a map suggesting the locations
from which elements of the Sea Peoples Immigrated

Egyptian History of the Sea Peoples
Map of the Immigration routes of the Sea Peoples

It is important to understand that the historic records which recorded the invasions was written by the Egyptians and was approximately contemporary with the historic period of the Jewish Exodus and the Greek's timing of the Trojan Wars. All three accounts are twelfth century events recorded in three different cultures from the perspective of the individual cultures recording their heritage and histories.

The obvious differences between the Hebrew and Greek accounts and the Egyptian account is that both the Greek and Hebrew stories of the historic period were recorded much later in their cultures history when the oral histories of the Greek and Hebrew cultures were finally put to tablet however the Egyptian record was made contemporary with the actual event.

The fact remains that there are lists of names of the various factions in the Federation of the Sea Peoples in the the Egyptian art record along with visual documentation of the costumes and weaponry of the sea peoples. This gives us a target to shoot for in identifying the geographic places of origin corresponding to the names in the record. This presentation is my best assessment of the probable geographic origins of the places corresponding to the names in the Egypt lists.

The sea peoples were described by the Egyptian written records as a loose federation of seafarers and named according to their geographic origins in lists of captives of the Pharaoh. The written records of Rameses III also empahsized that the the Sea people had come from the far reaches of the known world at the time. This description and the list of names without additional cross references to help crack the exact code has lead to much speculation as to the exact geographic origins of the various factions of the sea peoples.

It is apparent by comparison of the tatics of the Sea Peoples to political emissaries sent to Egypt during the Reign of Ankenaten that the sea people did not conduct themselves as politically motivated individuals interested in diplomacy and trade. They had a reputation for devastating military invasions and conquests against the civilized world. This pattern of behavior leads to seeing them as a federation of mercenary soldiers whose primary connection was their ability to navigate the Mediterranean by sea and launch military invasions and incursions by using a mobile seafaring military force. In today's parlance they would be described as pirates. The use of ships in their invasion forces was the most common element in their military strategy. Archeological evidence has lead scholars to conclude that the invasions were commonplace throughout the Mediterranean basin as well as into the Black Sea.

This pattern suggests the Sea People had great mobility and were motivated by taking spoil from wherever they had the opportunity to take it. Like the Viking seafarers of the tenth century AD the pattern and distribution of their incursions was Universal for their historic timeframe.

Egyptian art recorded the  Invasion of the Sea Peoples
Illustration of the wall panels at Medinet Habu

The historic commentary of the Sea Peoples given by the Egyptians is much more than names on a list it is a prime example of art history. The illustrations at Medinet Habu go into great detail in identifying the characteristics of individual segments of the sea peoples confederation. Distinctions in dress and weaponry are fully illustrated on the wall panels at Medinet Habu. By further analysis similar weapons and costumes from archeological sites throughout the Mediterranean can help identify where definite elements of the confederation were from. This is a prime example of Egyptian art history.

Details from wall panels at Mendinet Habu 12 th Century BCE, Egypt, showing the long thrusting swords and short swords (daggers) of the Sherek (Mycenaean's). To either side are illustrations of the sword blades and handles from Mycenaean archeological finds. The sword and dagger illustrations are composites created in photo shop.

The illustration above is a Bronze Casting of Soldier found in a middle bronze age context on Sardinia showing similar horned Helmets to those illustrated at Mendinet Habu. The similarity of the helmet, shield and dress of this statue to illustrations in the Mendinet Habu Wall panels strongly suggests part of the Sea Peoples forces came from Sardinia.


What is most remarkable about the Egyptian art in the Medinet Habu wall panel illustrations is the fact that they differentiate elements of the sea people confederation by distinctive dress and weaponry. In determining the geographic origins of the sea peoples all that is left for us to do is to interpolate from where those distinctive elements originated. The two best examples of fully illustrated elements of the Sea Peoples are the Sherden and the the Pelesets, however below is a more comprehensive list taken from the written records of the Egyptians in the 12th century BCE.

Labu, Sherden, Pelesets, Lukka, Wheshesh, Teresh,
Danuna, Karshisha, Shardana, Sikulu, Shekelesh, Ekwesh

Most of these names are repeated in Egyptian geographical records and accounts in other documents has giving us the ability to positively identify the geographical region each mercenary warrior class was from. I. E.

Labu, Lybians

Pelesets, Philistines

Teresh, Mycenaean

Shardana, Sardinians

Lukka, Lycians

Some of the more difficult of the elements of the confederation to identify may seem to be the Karshiska, Danuna and Wheshesh. The map above is an illustration of the known routes used in Twelfth Century BCE seafaring and trade with suggestions made for the geographic origins of the Wheshesh, Karshishka, Shekelesh and Danuna.

It can be shown from the historic records that that the Pelesets, Tjarkkar and Ekwesh all had historical roots in the Mesopotamian cultures however that there contemporary base of operation during the twelfth Century BCE was in the coastal lavent.

This is not meant to be a definitive analysis of the origins of the sea peoples but a work offered to raise the level of speculation and point the way to more definitive research on the subject of the reach and nature of twelfth century BCE seafaring and trade.

As a result of my own studies there are traceable patterns in trade and commerce that have emerged which strongly suggest the universal nature of seafaring in the 13th and 12th centuries BCE. I would like to make the statement that in general is seems the extent and influence of seafaring in the ancient world has been greatly underestimated and is a subject that needs to be more fully addressed by the academic community.

See also:

Bronze age weaponry

Ancient Seafaring

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