cover image 177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed

177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed

Eric H. Cline. Princeton Univ, $29.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-691-14089-6

Archaeologist Cline (From Eden to Exile) looks at the downfall of the many interconnected civilizations of the Late Bronze Age. This complex, highly organized interplay was sustained for three centuries, and came to an end over a period of approximately 100 years. Cline explores a vast array of variables that could have led to the disruption of the society of this era, including earthquakes, famines, droughts, warfare, and, most notably, invasions by the “Sea Peoples.” In some cases, the end was abrupt, but mostly it was highly evolved kingdoms ending not with a bang but a whimper. Cline handles the archeological evidence well, though the narrative drive is lacking. For example, early in the book he refers to the 2011 Arab Spring, making a comparison between those events and similar incidents in ancient times. Unfortunately, he doesn’t carry the analogy far enough and the book’s storyline suffers. Cline is at his best when he discusses the archives of letters found at Ugarit and Amarna. Much time is spent invoking the Sea Peoples, but the conclusion is that their role was small. Overall, Cline’s work appears aimed at those who have more than a passing interest in archeology, as that record bears the heaviest influence on the whole of this story. (Apr.)