- Theory proposes Luwian-speaking kingdoms joined to form a coalition
- This coalition then attacked and destroyed the nearby Hittite civilization
- Researchers say Egyptian text describing ‘Sea Peoples’ is about Luwians
- The Luwians were later destroyed in battle with Mycenaean kings at Troy
More than 3,000 years ago, the flourishing Bronze Age civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean suddenly met their downfall.
The Trojan War erupted as one of the final events culminating an era of chaos which one archaeologist has named ‘World War Zero’, plunging the region into a Dark Age soon after.
And, it was all begun by a mysterious and powerful civilization which came to be known as the ‘Sea Peoples,’ a new theory suggests.
The new ideas presented by Luwian Studiespropose a scenario that could explain the fall of the Bronze Age around 1200 BC, and the events leading up to the Trojan War.
In the new scenario, it’s argued that the many Luwian-speaking petty kingdoms and western Asia Minor, a peninsula also called Anatolia, joined together in a coalition to attack the neighbouring Hittites.
As these Luwian kingdoms spoke a common language, they can be discussed as a single civilization, Eberhard Zangger, head of the Zurich-based non-profit, explained to New Scientist.
‘During the second millennium BCE people speaking a Luwian language lived throughout Asia Minor,’ Luwian Studies explains.
‘They were contemporaries, trading partners, and at times opponents of the well-known Minoan, Mycenaean, and Hittite cultures of Greece and Asia Minor.
When the Bronze Age drew to a close, the Greeks lost the art of writing for many centuries. But, the Luwians maintained this for roughly half a millennium, the researchers say.
Texts from the Luwians were discovered in the 19th century, before the Mycenaean, Minoan, and Hittite documents.
Hittite texts reveal that the Luwian coalitions occasionally grew powerful enough to attack the empire.
The new theory suggests the Luwians did so once more, roughly 3200 years ago, converging upon the capital Hattusa from both land and sea.
Later Egyptian texts describe raids on Cyprus and Syria by the ‘Sea Peoples,’ and the researchers suggest these mysterious attackers are actually the Luwians.
Attackers set fires to temples and palaces, and drove out the ruling class until the Hittite civilization ‘vanished into oblivion for three thousand years,’ according to the proposal.
The massive Luwian civilization then ruled a territory from Northern Greece to Lebanon, they say.
In the new scenario, it’s argued that the many Luwian-speaking petty kingdoms and western Asia Minor, a peninsula also called Anatolia, joined together in a coalition (red) to attack the neighbouring Hittites (green). The new theory suggests the coalition converged upon the Hittite capital Hattusa from land and sea
Shortly after, the Mycenaean kings in Greece banded together to destroy the Luwians, who could not defend their large territory.
The Myceneans built a large fleet and attacked the port cities of Asia Minor, which were easily destroyed.
Then, the two armies gathered before Troy.
The subsequent battle – the infamous ‘Trojan War’ – ended in the complete destruction of the Luwian coalition, and the fall of Troy.
But, the victors were met with their own chaos in the years to follow.
Kings returned home from war to clash with the deputies who had since assumed their roles, and some didn’t return at all.
Few kings were able to resume their claim to the throne, and ‘traditional Mycenaean kingdoms existed next to areas of anarchy,’ the researchers explain.
Eventually, a civil war tore through the civilization, and the Mycenaean Era was brought to an end.
A Dark Age began soon after.
The researchers from Luwian Studies say this scenario could explain the sudden end of the Late Bronze Age, but not all archaeologists agree with the concept of a ‘lost’ Luwian civilization, New Scientist explains.
And, some debate the ‘World War Zero,’ narrative, and explain that that many archaeologists have become skeptical of the ancient narratives which describe ‘approximate historical truth,’ like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.
‘Archaeologists will need to discover similar examples of monumental art and architecture across western Anatolia and ideally texts from the same sites to support Zangger’s claim of a civilization,’ Christoph Bachhuber, of the University of Oxford, told New Scientist.
Though it’s been met with some criticism, archaeologists say the research will bring the Late Bronze Age era of western Anatolia into the light for future studies.