The Sea Peoples: The warriors behind the infamy

Author: Laurie Starr

Starr, Laurie, 2018 The Sea Peoples: The warriors behind the infamy, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


In Late Bronze Age the eastern Mediterranean was suddenly hit by seaborne invaders, and fell into ruin after their appearance. These raiders were the Sea Peoples who have been theorised to have caused the disruption of the eastern Mediterranean economies, leading to the collapse of the powerful kingdoms and cities within. They are often viewed as the sole cause, or one of many—when climate or political changes and migration are viewed as playing a role—of the overall devastation. The multiethnic group of tribes came together and fought Egypt, with their defeat finally ending their destructive path. After their loss to Ramesses III in the land and sea battles, the Sea Peoples never appeared in the record again.

Archaeological investigations have attempted to uncover information regarding the peoples, revealing destruction layers, sites, and cultural materials with proposed associations. The iconography in which Sea Peoples appear in relation to their last battles against Ramesses III is depicted on a panel in the Medinet Habu Mortuary Temple. The represented images provide visual representations of the warriors and their ships, oxcarts, and families.

This thesis aims to bring life to the warriors depicted in the Medinet Habu panel. The collected data demonstrated the immense diversity within the conglomeration of peoples, to an extent greater than previously suggested. The differences were numerous within their many costume features and traits that led to the conclusion that division into tribes based on their appearance was improbable. The correlation of their wardrobe and weaponry, as well as referencing the data with the suggested elements, which were to define each tribe, led to the assertion of there being no defined divisions.

The thesis revealed how iconographic representations on the Medinet Habu plates provide for a more detailed understanding of the Sea Peoples. Future work could use this to confirm or rule out material culture by way of visual representations with perceived associations to the peoples.

Keywords: Sea Peoples, Peoples of the Sea, warriors, Mediterranean, eastern Mediterranean, Late Bronze Age, Iron Age, maritime, martime battles, ships, Medinet Habu, Papyris Harris I, Karnak inscription, tribes, marauders, pirates, Ramesses II, Ramesses III, Merenptah, Egypt, Ugarit, Hittite Empire, Cyprus, Levant, Peleset, Philistines, Shekelesh, Sherden, Denyen, Teresh, Weshesh, Tjekker, Tjeker, Shardana, Sikels, Sikil, Sikuli, Danuna, Eqwesh, Ekwesh, Lukka, Lukki, migration, uniforms, headdresses, kilts, armour, swords, shields, daggers, spears, javelins

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2018
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Wendy Van Duivenvoorde