Eric H. Cline, in 1177, the Year Civilization Collapsed has gone through the 15th and 14th centuries B.C.E. giving reasons to think there was an international order that encompassed the Egyptians, the Minoans, the Mycenaeans, the Hittites, the Mitanni, the Assyrians, the Babylonians and a number of lesser powers. There was trade. There was the exchange of artisans. There was diplomatic letter writing. There was even intermarriage among the royal houses.
We now know that merchant vessels often carried Egyptian goods and those of many other nations.
We know this from cargo lists and bills of lading that have survived. We also know it from undersea archeology on ancient shipwrecks.
In his chapter on the 13th century Cline begins and ends with shipwrecks. Near the beginning of the century there was a ship, probably early or proto-Phoenician, that sank at Uluburun off southwestern Turkey. Radio carbon dating puts it at about 1300, although some think it is earlier because of a seal found in the wreckage with the name of Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s queen. We have deduced that it was on its way from Canaan or Cyprus to a port in the Aegean.
The ship was built of Lebanese cedar and oak. It carried a cargo of copper, tin and glass ingots, likely Cypriot in origin. But it also carried some Egyptian goods like gold and silver vessels and jewelry as well as African goods like Elephant tusks. It had swords of both Canaanite and Mycenaean types. So the details of the cargo show broad international trade.
We have recovered a similar shipwreck that happened about a hundred years later off Cape Gelidonya. And there is another one from about 1200 off the Greek Argolid peninsula at Point Iria. This was a small ship. The surviving cargo has many pots and jars with origins from all over the eastern Mediterranean.
These shipwrecks bracket the 13th century and show that vigorous international trade continued throughout.
But the wars and upheavals of that century may have foreshadowed the coming collapse.
Most famously, we know that the Hittites and the Egyptians fought in Syria. Ramses II of Egypt led a force that met the Hittite army in the famous battle of Qadesh. It resulted in a stalemate. Thirteen years later Ramses married a daughter of the Hittite king and concluded a peace treaty that finally brought about a more cordial relationship between the two powers.
But the Hittites were aggressive in other directions. They dealt a deadly blow to the Mitanni Empire. This backfired when upstart Assyrians then easily overthrew the weakened Mitanni kingdom bringing their own borders up against Hittite lands. War ensued between Hatti and Assyria. We have inscriptions detailing an accord between the Hittites and the Syrian state of Amurru. The accord not only cemented a military alliance but called for Amurru to engage in an economic boycott of Assyria.
Two different Hittite kings claimed to have invaded Cyprus. We do not know if they really occupied Cyprus. But Cyprus, known as the kingdom of Ahhiayawa, dropped out of the list of great powers. The Hittites probably also made war against the Mycenaeans in the west. The seaport of Miletus near the later city of Ephesus apparently passed from Mycenaean control to Hittite control.
Cline talks about two legends that are often said to have some kind of factual roots in this century, the Trojan War and the Exodus. He, himself, in an earlier chapter wanted to date the events behind the Trojan War to an earlier century. I have argued elsewhere that the Exodus is to be looked for in the 12th century. So I am going to pass over these discussions except insofar as he included a discussion of the 13th century destruction of the city of Hazor in Galilee.
His discussion of Hazor, exactly as in the book, is in this online article. I have discussed the Bronze Age destruction of Hazor in a blog essay here. While Cline remains uncommitted about who destroyed Hazor, I suggested that it was Israel and that this is what put Israel on the radar and caused Pharaoh Merneptah to consider it a power, one of the nine bows, in his Israel stele.