1177 BC The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline
The Bronze Age collapse is a turning point in history as it is the era of the fall of Bronze Age in the Ancient Near East. Many near eastern cultures ceased to exist after this calamity including the Hittites (sadly as they were my favorites), the Kassites, the Mycenaeans, as well as host of other smaller city-states. Egypt, though she survived, was permanently crippled and never again achieved as much dominance as she had before. This book, 1177 BC, attempts at synthesizing much of the data and information into a cohesive narrative leading up to this collapse.
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Unfortunately, I felt that this book suffered from a few flaws. Most notably, the book is divided into a few sections and each one deals with roughly a century of history of the Bronze Age in the near east. While this context is good per se, it is simply too much. Because of this, not enough pages are dedicated to the actual explanation of the collapse itself though it is able to be described vividly by contrasting it with the high points of the precious centuries. This ultimately led to a less than satisfactory explanation for the Bronze Age collapse which is is essentially described as coming about by a combination of a bunch of several different factors playing off each other. Nothing new in this explanation at all. (There is literally a run down of a handful of potential factors such as droughts, rebellions, merchant class theory, trade relations, etc. and a description of their compatibility followed by how they alone were not enough to cause the collapse.) He combines this system collapse concept with complexity theory (as these civilizations were complex structures) to assert that it wouldn’t take all that much to through everything off balance. Still, even the author admits that his answer does seem to be unsatisfying.
Despite this lackluster answer to an admittedly complicated problem, the book is not without merit. First of all, the author uses a tremendous amount of research (some if it quite new) throughout the entire book. He also combines this new data and information with copious amounts of primary source material which always a plus in my book. Lastly, the book itself turns out to be a great primer on the Late Bronze Age as a whole. He delves into many of the near eastern civilizations quite often and his information on the economies of these civilizations is exceptionally good.
Overall, I felt that this book lacked oomph in regards to its answer to the Bronze Age collapse and didn’t really put forth much new in explaining a complicated event. Still, the preceding chapters (a majority of the book in fact) are excellent resources on the civilizations of the Late Bronze Age, especially in the realm of economics. For those who have not studied the Bronze Age collapse this book would be a great introduction to the topic. However, if you are well versed in this area of study, don’t expect much new ground to be made.
3 out of 5 stars.