The Sea Peoples


The Sea People, who we are told of on reliefs at Medinet Habu and Karnak, as well as from the text of the Great Harris Papyrus (now in the British Museum), are said to be a loose confederation of people originating in the eastern Mediterranean.  From their individual names, we believe that they may specifically have come from the Aegean and Asia Minor. However, regardless of their organization as a "loose confederation", they did manage to invade Egypt's northern coast and apparently mounted campaigns against the Egyptians on more than one occasion. 

The 12th century brought dramatic changes that permanently affected Asia Minor and the civilized world of that time. Between 1200 and 1176 BC, the chaos that occurred in that region was probably a direct outcome of Sea People activity, and may be one reason why we find it difficult to find historical documentation beyond that date in Asia Minor. 

We actually believe that the Sea People became active as early as the reign of Akhenaten. These were probably the Denen, Lukka and Sherden. The Lukka and Sherden are also recorded, along with the Peleset as serving as mercenaries in the army of Ramesses II, especially at the Battle of Qadesh. In fact, Ramesses II had earlier been forced to defend himself against attempts by the Sherden to establish a chain of efforts to the west of Egypt. They had arrived in that area almost a century earlier, and are said to have included the Libu, who would eventually give their name to Libya. An inscription of  Ramesses II relates in the 8th year of his reign (which is dated c. 1176 BC):

"No land could stand before their arms, from Hatti, Qode, Carchemish, Arzawa and Alasiya on, being cut off at one time. A camp was set up in one place in Amurru. They desolated its people, and its land was like that which has never come into being. They were coming toward Egypt, while the flame was prepared before them. Their confederation was the Peleset, Tjeker, Shekelesh, Denyen, and Weshesh, lands united. They laid their hands upon the land as far as the circuit of the earth, their hearts confident and trusting: 'Our plans will succeeded!' 
Medinet Habu Inscription

Various scholars have tried to place these people with recognizable regions. We are told by ancient text that they came from Ahhiyawa. However, we are told that the Sea People included:

  • The Peleset, who were non other than the Philistines 
  • The Lukka who may have come from the Lycian region of Anatolia. 
  • The Ekwesh and Denen who seem to be identified with the Homeric Achaean and Danaean Greeks
  • The Sherden who may be associated with Sardinia.
  • The Teresh (Tursha or Tyrshenoi - possibly the Tyrrhenians), the Greek name for the Etruscans; or from the western Anatolian Taruisa 
  • Shekelesh (Shekresh, Sikeloi - Sicilians?) 


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