What is the Fall of 1200 BC project about?

Project overview

The Fall of 1200 BC is more fully called: The Fall of 1200BC: The role of migration and conflict in social crises at end of the Bronze Age in South-eastern Europe

This is funded through a European Research Council Consolidator Grant and will run from 2018 until 2023 and is being conducted at the UCD School of Archaeology and the UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture (check out our very active FB page!).

This project explores changes in migration and conflict at the end of the Bronze Age (ca.1300-1000 BC) and their relevance for understanding the collapse of Europe's first urban civilisation in the Aegean and proto-urban groups of the Balkans. The objective is to uncover the human face of this turning point in European prehistory by directly tracing the movement of people and the spread of new social practices across cultural boundaries. Hotly debated ancient tales of migrations are tested for the first time using recent advances in genetic and isotopic methods that can measure human mobility. Combined with mortuary research, this will precisely define relations between personal mobility and status, gender, identity and health to explore social scenarios in which people moved between groups.

Medinet Habu Sea Peoples

Relief from the mortuary temple of Ramses III depicting the alleged attack of the Sea Peoples ca. 1177 BC. The boats depicted have close similarities to contemporary types emerging at this time in Europe, and this forms the basis for our logo

To better understand the context of mobility, the project also evaluates social networks through which cultural traditions moved within and between distinct societies. For this purpose, regionally particular ways for making and using objects are analysed to explore how practices were exchanged and how types of objects shaped, and were shaped by, their new contexts of use. Metalwork is chosen for this research because new forms came to be widely shared across the region during the crisis, and we can employ a novel suite of analytic methods that explore how this material exposes wider social changes.

Analysing metalwork

Analysing metalwork from the Carpathian Basin at the Museum of Vojvodina, Serbia

As personal and cultural mobility took place in social landscapes, the changing strategies for controlling access and mobility in settlement organisation are next explored. The character and causes of conflicts arising through these diverse venues for interaction are identified and we assess if they were catalysts for, or consequences of, unstable social systems.

The Fall uses new primary research to test how this interplay between local developments, cultural transmissions and movement of people shaped the processes and events leading to the collapse of these early complex societies.

Gradiste IdjosMycenae

The fortified sites of Gradiste Idjos (Serbia, left) and Mycenae (Greece, right) dating to the later Bronze Age (1400-1000 BC)

One of the important concerns for our team will be how to most effectively bring together critical approaches to material culture, settlement and mortuary studies alongside the application of scientific analyses of aDNA and stable isotope signatures of past populations. As analyses of migration and conflict are core aspects of our work, we look forward to engaging with current theoretical thinking on mobility and interaction when evaluating our new data and its relevance.

If you would like to learn more about the methods we use, the structure of the project, and how we will realise our objectives outlined here, please look at work packages page

Find out more about the methods we use

Work Packages