Having introduced you to the notion of incorrect interpretation and selective historical myopia it now seems necessary to go forward with another facet of the unveiling and understanding of the wider origins and distribution of the so-called “Sea Peoples” or more accurately those two very distinct and closely resembling sets of figures represented in the land and sea battles at Medinet Habu.
It is also worth mentioning that some may think that a fixation on these two great battle scenes along with the other lesser representations of these two very distinctive groups at Medinet Habu is not enough to come to a completely solid or at least sound conclusion, but, there is so little in the way of actual close to real life representation of these enigmatic peoples represented anywhere else in such a methodically recorded fashion that coupled with the fastidious Egyptian habit of recording all there particulate activities from religious to everyday life activities, war and victories included on such monumental architecture and their level of capturing the appearance of the peoples they defeated in battle so well that we would be committing a fatal error in just regarding these scenes as part of how Ramesses would have wanted himself to be remembered by future generations, regardless of any deliberate exaggeration or propaganda undertones.
An oversight of these dimensions would have us using popular lay interpretative sources to conclude a very skin deep analysis of what amounts to a serious attempt to hand down to future generation clear and well defined records of historical events and their participants.
Such avenues taken up from those wanting to connect the dots only because they see similarity and attempting to fit their particular interpretative theories to that of actual evidence and source.
Not understanding that cultures throughout Bronze age Europe and the Middle East with their associated kingdoms and realms all at one time or another had very similar styles of adornment both in normal everyday use and also in warfare, one example is the garments worn by the Sea Peoples and their confederates and those of the Egyptians. These quite vastly different cultures all share certain influences but still retain their own distinct identity.
We are dealing with a time when it was very easy to identify a person of a particular culture or civilization without to much effort, for anyone versed with these cultures it becomes relatively easy to identify an individuals ethnicity or origins by his adornments and artefacts that they carry with them, Medinet Habu is literally a Goldmine for anyone wanting to see the many different peoples involved , from as far away as Kush and Punt to the far south, Hittites,Minoans and Mycenaeans to the north and Libyans to the west . Although it has to be said a Hittite in Egyptian garb or a Kushite in Canaanite apparel would need closer scrutiny but not necessarily a re-evaluation as the obvious is making itself known here and should not be misinterpreted as being evidence to the contrary.
The maps of the distribution of Luwian Dialects in my previous entry would help to illustrate the point that the Hittite realm was large and diverse within its borders and to each dialect we would expect to see material similarities with one another but also distinct differences much the same way we would see Spartan culture in the Eurotas Valley and the differences in their colonies in Southern Italy and Sicily or Greek colonies on the Black Sea Region, time and geographical separation might change habits and appearance to a degree but none the less the peoples are the same and no mistake should be made about that.
To say that, for example we know all there is to know about Minoan adornment and clothing just from discoveries made decades ago and so far uncovered would be sighting one such typical over-site, new discoveries shape our awareness of what was and still more is being discovered and is yet to be, and thus an ever growing database is being established as to appearance and variety of this culture.
What has been uncovered in sites such as Mycenae and Pylos is that Mycenaeans were predominantly clean shaven, just like their Minoan Cousins, that doesn’t mean to say they were all so, the warrior vase fro Mycenae suggests at a first glance the opposite but could also easily be interpreted as stylised chin-guard much the same way as the illustration of a Hittite warrior’s helmet, though beards with clean-shaven upper lips are another facet of Mycenaean male culture.
Figure.1. Mycenaean Warrior in Full Armour (From the Warrior Vase at Mycenae).
Figure.2. Close-up of a possible Mycenaean Warrior’s helmet chin-strap, this can also be taken to be a Beard with clean-shaven upper lip.
Lay interpretations can sometimes form a kind of second or third-hand layer of source without the filter of real archaeological scrutiny and the lens of basic common sense and logical deduction.
This will and most often dose guide us away from actually seeing what that something really is, however if this avenue of reasoning is coupled to pragmatic and sensible understanding of the cultures being explored then this too can help us to expand our understanding of the identity and origins of the Sea Peoples, and other less well identified peoples of remote antiquity.
Take for instance the young English Architect Michael Ventris Although not an archaeologist and definitely not a lay person as such, whose dedicated enthusiasm allowed him in 1951-53 to decipher the Linear-B form.
Figure.4. Michael Ventris.
Figure.5. Example of Linea A and Linear B text.
The decipherment of Linear B began at the beginning of the 20th century by the Famous Archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans when his excavations of Knossos, the Fabled City of King Minos on Crete unearthed a vast collection of clay document-type tablets written in and unknown script. A number of the tablets were deduced to be older in origin and were given the title of Linear A, the majority were found to be more recent and were labelled as Linear B, for more than 20 years Sir Arthur Evans spent without conclusively deciphering either of these texts.
Figure.6. Cretan Hieroglyphs.
Figure.7. Linear A.
Figure.8. Linear B.
Part of the problem stemmed from Sir Arthur Evans himself. His strong belief about the origins and nature of the civilization of Crete had him convinced that the Linear B form was a language he named as “Minoan”.
His connections within the academic world were far reaching and to the point that he successfully prevented further investigation into the linear A &B forms which would have helped clarify the possibility that the texts were actually written in Greek, even when the evidence clearly should that it was highly probable.
Michael Ventris’ work on the linear B form was radical as it was controversial, when he stated early on in his work to decipher Linear B he made the case for the relationship of the Etruscan script to that of Linear B as a key to decipherment of the Linear B form, this however proved to be a dead end but he continued this avenue of approach.
Not long after Sir Arthur Evans Died it was noticed that particular words in Linear B ended in the similar manner as to Latin and Greek. This lead Ventris to produce a grid arrangement relating vowels and consonants with Linear B symbols. Although which symbol corresponded to which set of vowels and consonants evaded Ventris for a time. This eventually allowed Ventris to get to grips with the structure of the Linear B form that he could reasonably begin to guess at what the symbols were saying.
The fact that Linear B tablets has also been discovered in Greece allowed him to postulate that some of the sequence of Linear B glyphs on the Cretan Tablets were names.
Ventris realised that some names only appeared in the Cretan Tablets, His reasoning lead him to believe that those names were in fact the names of cities on Crete. This was the breakthrough Ventris was looking for, and allowed him to unlock Linear B and discover that it was written in a very archaic and abrupt dorm of Greek, but Greek nonetheless, a language lost for over 3000 years.
This brilliant piece of deductive reasoning did away with Sir Arthur Evans’ theory on Minoan History being exclusively Cretan and that the later period Minoan History that the Linear B form was present in had in fact actually been Greece itself.
This goes to show in affect that a strict dose of course-correction is needed on a regular basis for each part of our journey to conclusively and methodically validate the way in which we must approach this topic.