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May 13, 2016

Study discovers new prehistoric civilization in ancient Europe

A new book and website supports the idea that our view of prehistoric civilizations around the Aegean Sea suffers from a pro-European bias.

The recognized civilizations of the Bronze Age Aegean, which lasted between 3000 and 1500 BC, are the Mycenaean, Minoan, and Cycladic civilizations. Collectively, these societies cover only approximately one-third of the Aegean coasts. The new book and website, from the Switzerland-based Luwian Studies foundation, points to archaeological evidence that suggests many more civilizations existed in Anatolia, or modern-day Turkey.

The establishment of three recognized cultures dates back to Knossos excavator Arthur Evans, whose publications in the 1920s laid the building blocks for the study of Aegean prehistory. During the Aegean Bronze Age, Greece, and Turkey were at war. Since Evans aimed to steer study interest towards Greece, his work dismissed cultures on Anatolian soil – even though Troy, an expansive and stratified archaeological location, is located in Anatolia.

Archaeologists claim that the Luwians had a large part in "World War Zero" that brought on a dark age in prehistoric times.

Archaeologists claim that the Luwians had a large part in "World War Zero" that brought on a dark age in prehistoric times.

Finding new archaeological sites

On their new website, scientists at Luwian Studies have an extensive database of Bronze Age archaeological locations in western Turkey. This unique collection was complied thanks to multiple years of literature study and field surveys. It presently covers more than 340 substantial settlements, including their exact location and aerial photographs. Additional information will be added throughout the year as an element of an undertaking in collaboration with the University of Zurich.

Geographic data have placed the settlements into a framework with rivers, lakes, natural resources, trade routes, flood plains and agricultural productivity, giving quantifiable information on the connection between humans and the surroundings, the researchers said.

The scale Bronze Age locations in western Turkey indicates this area was dotted with a network of civilizations and minor states during the entire second 2nd millennium BC, the Swiss team said. These societies cannot be related to either the Mycenaean civilization on the Greek mainland or the Hittite kingdom in Central Asia Minor. If these minor states had produced an alliance, it would likely have exceeded the Mycenaean or Hittite realms in conditions of political, financial, and military might.

Western Asia Minor had its own writing system at this time, and many people living here spoke the same language, Luwian. Hence, the research team argued, the civilization is known as “Luwian,” the Swiss researchers said.

“The demise of the Late Bronze Age cultures shortly after 1200 BC is perhaps the greatest mystery of Mediterranean archaeology,” Eberhard Zangger, president of Luwian Studies, told Popular Archeology. “Egyptian temple inscriptions depict the invasions of the Sea Peoples. Ancient Greek historians see the Trojan War as the cause of the collapse. It could well be that the Sea Peoples indeed came from the Luwian petty states in western Asia Minor, who used a fleet to attack the Hittite kingdom from the south, whereas the so-called Trojan War was a counterattack by the allied Mycenaean kingdoms against the Luwian coastal cities that occurred somewhat later, of which only the last battle was fought at Troy.”


Image credit: Wikimedia Commons