In order to show how civilization collapsed in the 12th century before Christ, Eric Cline in 1177 B.C. the Year Civilization Collapsed, goes back to earlier centuries to show what civilization existed before the collapse. He does this by recounting history in what he calls a drama of four acts.
The first act goes back to the 15th century to show the existence of vibrant trade and cultural exchange around the eastern Mediterranean. What he shows first is that there seems to have been a lot of interchange between Egypt and the Minoan civilization on Crete and other islands.
After the Egyptians deposed the Asiatic Hyksos rulers from their capitol at Avaris, they rebuilt Avaris. Manfred Bietak, the Austrian archeologist, has uncovered the widespread use of Minoan art at the city. This means the Egyptians must have imported Minoan artisans.
Cline goes on to tell the very interesting story of how we went from knowing little about the Minoan civilization in the early 1900s to detailed knowledge today. One of the things found in Minoan Crete is a number of imported Egyptian objects.
Cline points out that what one finds are the few imperishable items of trade. There must have been much trade in grain, wine, textiles, perfumes, and wooden objects–all of which would not survive for us to dig up. Also many metal or precious stone objects would have been recycled for reuse by later peoples and so be unavailable to us. However, we do have written texts and paintings on Egyptian tombs that testify to this kind of trade. Cline believes there was a vibrant system of international diplomacy, commerce and transportation.
We know that Egypt established widespread international trade in the 15th century. During the reign of queen Hatsheput (1507-1458) a trading expedition went to Phoenicia to arrange for trading in wood (the cedars of Lebanon). She also sent an expedition to the Land of Punt (coastal areas of Sudan and Somalia or maybe Yemen across the Red Sea). During the time of the next Pharaoh, Thutmose III, Egypt traded copper and horses with a place they called Isy. This may have been a non-Hittite polity in what is today Turkey.
Thutmose III invaded Canaan and established Egyptian power there that would last until about 1177, when the Sea Peoples struck.
Thutmose III also fought against the Mitani kingdom. But following that war, there were peaceful relations between Egypt and Mitani. There was intermarriage of the royal families and thus commercial, and cultural exchange.
Archeology, as mentioned above, has found out a lot about the Minoan civilization in the last two centuries. But at least, because they are mentioned in Thucydides, we know of the existence of the Minoans. The Hittites are different. Some Hittites are mentioned in the Bible. We do not know if they have anything to do with the Hittite Empire. Just from the Bible, you would think that they were one of the Canaanite tribes. But until recent times we were totally unaware of the existence of the Hittites as a great Bronze Age civilization. Now we have not only uncovered Hittite cities, but found a treasure of Hittite documents and texts.
So we know the Hittite Empire existed in Turkey. In about 1430 the Hittites put down a rebellion by several states in the northwest. One of these states was probably Homer’s Troy. Doing a little textual detective work, Cline develops the theory that one of the letters associated with that war, came from a king of the Mycenaeans. These would have been the proto-Greeks–the other side of the Trojan war. So Cline wants to date the historical events behind the Homer’s epic earlier than people usually do.
The point he is making with all this is that there was a robust international system of interrelations beginning in the 15th century B.C.E.