Biblical Archaeology Review 41:5, September/October 2015

Strata: Dever Prize Winner Challenges Sea Peoples Theory

It’s popularly suggested that a group of marauding seafarers referred to as the Sea Peoples contributed to the collapse of major cities in the Late Bronze Age in their raid of Eastern Mediterranean trading centers. Were the Sea Peoples really responsible? No, or at least not for the Southern Levant, says Jesse Millek, this year’s winner of the Sean W. Dever Memorial Prize for his paper “Sea Peoples, Philistines, and the Destruction of Cities: A Critical Examination of Destruction Layers ‘Caused’ by the ‘Sea Peoples.’” In his paper, presented in November 2014 at a conference titled “The Sea Peoples Up-to-Date: New Research on the Migration of Peoples in the 12th Century BCE,” in Vienna, Austria, he examined 16 sites in the Southern Levant whose Late Bronze Age destruction layers have been attributed to the invasion of the Sea Peoples. Millek concluded that there was no real evidence to say the sites—which include Lachish, Aphek, Tel Batash and Tel Miqne/Ekron—were destroyed by the Sea Peoples.

Millek is a Ph.D. candidate in the Biblical Archaeology Institute and Department of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Tübingen, Germany. The focus of his research is on the development of interregional exchange as a resource during the Late Bronze Age in the Southern Levant and its virtual disappearance in the Iron Age I.

The Sean W. Dever Prize was established in 2001 by Norma Dever and Professor William G. Dever in memory of their son Sean.

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