“False Destructions” in Scholarship on the Late Bronze Age

In a recent piece for ANE Today, Jesse Millek, a visiting scholar at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, argues that some of the destruction of Late Bronze Age (LBA) sites typically dated to around 1200 BCE are actually “false destructions.” Specifically, Millek examines a map produced by Robert Drews in his 1993 volume The End of the Bronze Age Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe Ca. 1200 B.C. (Princeton University Press.) That map, viewable in Millek’s piece, lists a number of sites that register as destroyed as the LBA was ending. “It gives the impression that, wherever one looks in the Easter Mediterranean, one will find a city of ruins due to the turmoil brought on by the end of the LBA,” he writes. He takes issue with this suggestive cartography, employing the term “false destructions” to describe some of what appears there.

For Millek, there are three types of false destructions:

  1. Misdated destructions.
  2. Assumed destructions based on limited or no evidence.
  3. False citations.

With regard to Drew’s map, Millek thinks that a little over half are false destructions for the three reasons he offers. And they persist in scholarship because of methodological issues that the historical community desperately needs to address. By referring time and again to Drews, the scholarly community perpetuates questionable data, creating an atmosphere in which “the false destructions he brought into the scholarly world…become scholarly fact through his repeated citation.”

I don’t spend a lot of time reading scholarship on the LBA and I’ve not read Drews’s book, so I’m hesitant to offer any judgment on here. But the piece by Millek may be of interest to those readers who enjoy thinking about these fascinating historical problems and their relationship to biblical studies.

1 thought on ““False Destructions” in Scholarship on the Late Bronze Age

  1. Interesting read. Thanks for linking to Millek’s piece! A good reminder that I need to visit ANE Today more regularly.

    On a related note, I’m compelled to recommend Eric Cline’s recently updated 1177: The Year Civilization Collapsed–a catchy but reductive title, as he explains in the book. It’s an engaging, concise, big-picture history (intended largely for a lay audience) of the Bronze Age Collapse and the events of the two or three centuries that preceded it. Cline does a great job illuminating the mercantile, political, and cultural relationships between the key kingdoms/city-states/etc. of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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