Bestselling Author Eric Cline Talks Bronze Age Society

By Steven Scarpa, Associate Director of Marketing and Communications

Based on the series of events that toppled eight Bronze Age societies, modern society is currently showing all the signs of heading towards the same kind of outcome, according to historian and bestselling author Eric Cline.

Those societies wrestled with a confluence of drought, disease, earthquakes, extreme weather, and violence; all factors present today, he said. “What we’ve just been talking about is not just ancient history. It is, in fact, relevant to us. So, what will we do when or if we collapse? I would say it’s not if, it’s a matter of when,” Cline said. “Kind of ending on a bummer, aren’t I?”

Cline gave a talk at the OC Marsh Lecture Hall on Thursday, May 9 to a rapt crowd of about 150 people about his new book “After 1177 BC: The Survival of Civilizations” and his hit book “1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed.”

“There has been a lot of interest recently in the collapse of society,” said Cline, who is Professor of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Anthropology at George Washington University.

Cline described in his talk the confluence of events that led to the end around 1177 BCE of eight societies all centered around the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, including the Minoans, Mycenaeans, Egyptians, Hittites, and Babylonians. “When I was in graduate school, I was told the Sea Peoples (a hypothesized seafaring confederation), were the bogeyman that had done it, but it turns out there were other possibilities,” Cline said.

Cline’s thesis about a confluence of catastrophe over several hundreds of years was drawn from a combination of contemporary written records, usually from one leader to another, and data gleaned from the environmental record. “We’ve been trying to figure out for the past 100 years what exactly happened, what caused this collapse, one that my kids would say was ginormous,” Cline said.

Some of the societies were more resilient and innovative, lasting a bit longer or transforming into something else. Still others, overwhelmed by events, disappeared completely.

Towards the end of his talk, Cline offered a few tips for ailing societies. Have multiple contingency plans. Cultivate the resilience as a society to withstand any blows. Be self-sufficient, but also have friends willing to help. Prepare for extreme weather. Keep the working class happy. Have a secure water supply. Not doing those things tends to result in disaster, Cline said. “It turns out to be eight case studies on what not to do if your society has collapsed,” Cline said.

Cline was joined during the event by author and illustrator Glynnis Fawkes, who recently adapted “1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed” into a graphic novel. She spoke about using Cline’s original text as a jumping off point for a new kind of creation, one meticulously drawn over several iterative drafts. “It’s not every day that an academic book turns into graphic history,” said Fawkes.

She started off with a literal adaptation of the book, but quickly realized that transposing 250 pages of history would be almost impossible. By trimming 80 percent of the text and focusing on the smaller personal stories seeded throughout Cline’s narrative, Fawkes was able tell the story with powerful, historically accurate imagery.

To learn more about Cline and Fawkes’ books, visit Princeton University Press.



Last updated on May 22, 2024

More from: