When Civilizations Collapse (Part One): Lessons from the Bronze Age Decline

2012, Apocalypto, Mad Max – we’ve all seen disaster movies depicting the chaotic events that lead to civilizational collapse. Often the events portrayed are cataclysmic, thrilling, and unexpected, resulting in great loss of life and destruction of property. We allow our imagination to run wild with possibilities when we envision society crumbling. Even so, throughout history there are numerous examples to draw upon in addition to those that we can conjure in our minds. History is riddled with the bones and buildings of past civilizations that didn’t survive. Their skeletal ruins are a warning to those that err to follow in their now-fossilized footsteps. Therefore it’s healthy for any society to reflect upon their present circumstance and ensure that they aren’t trodding down a well-worn path towards obsolescence. In this spirit we look back through history and explore selected causes that have contributed to civilizations’ declines and remain mindful of parallels to our present society. 

The first civilizations we will examine will be those of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1250-1150 BC), namely the Egyptians, Hittites, Mycenaeans, Minoans, Babylonians, Canaanites, and Assyrians. The exact events that led to their demise is hotly debated, as attested by Eric. H. Cline’s book 1177 BC The Year Civilization Collapsed. One major aspect that contributed to the demise of the Bronze Age civilizations is that they formed highly connected international societies linked by vast trade networks, leading to dependence on foreign resources. When these resources dried up due to catastrophic events (earthquakes, famine, etc) or the disruption of trade routes, the civilizations that depended on them diminished. While simply one factor among many that contributed to the end of the Bronze Age, this dependence on foreign goods raises questions about today’s fragile global supply chain [1].  

A Fragile Ecosystem

Much like our modern global society, the world of the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean was a highly interconnected ecosystem held together by intricate trade networks. Notable archeological evidence has attested to this interconnected society, such as the Uluburun Shipwreck, the remains of a trade vessel that sunk off the coast of Anatolia in the 14th century BC carrying copper and tin ingots among other items [2], and the Amarna Letters, a vast collection of clay tablets containing correspondences between Egyptian Pharaohs and other prominent leaders in the Eastern Mediterranean, often discussing gold or other resource shipments [3]. In his book Scales of Fate, author Christopher Monroe describes the world of the Late Bronze Age as:

“An intersocietal network…exceptional in the treaties, laws, diplomacy, and exchange that created the first great international era in world history.” [4]

One process that was dependent on this trade network was bronze manufacturing. Bronze, the metal that gives this era its name, is composed of tin and copper, metals vital to the ancient Mediterranean world and whose importance has even been compared to crude oil today [5]. In the Bronze Age, the primary source of tin was probably modern-day Afghanistan (though some have speculated that a potential source was even further away in Cornwall, England), while the primary source of copper was found on the island of Cyprus. Due to these vast distances, a stable network of trade between several kingdoms was necessary to mine, transport, and combine the metals in order to produce the finished product. 

A reconstruction of the Uluburun shipwreck. The shipwreck was important because it proved that trade for resources like copper, tin, glass, and pottery was common in the Bronze Age Mediterranean.

Trade and communication during this period were dependent on stable land and sea routes across the Eastern Mediterranean. Although the nations often warred amongst each other, these routes stayed intact for centuries. It wouldn’t be until a new people migrated into the region that the stability of the trade network would be threatened.

Bronze Age Decline

The network that allowed for the trade of bronze and other resources like gold, ivory, and glass existed for several hundred years before collapsing in the early decades of the 12th century BC, resulting in a decline of the civilizations that depended on it. Some combination of earthquakes, famine, and possibly plague contributed to an initial destabilization; next came the emergence of a foreign, sea-faring group that are commonly referred to as the “Sea Peoples,” who may have engaged in piracy and attacked cities along the coast. Their exact origin is shrouded in mystery. It is likely that their presence destabilized the region further and made trade routes unsafe for merchants, cutting off vital resources to trade partners. Cline writes:

”…when the trade routes were cut, raw materials such as copper from Cyprus and tin from Afghanistan, as well as gold from Egypt and silver from Greece, were probably harder to obtain. As a result, bronze was likely in short supply.”

p. 169

For the Aegean kingdoms like Mycenae, who were particularly dependent on trade for basic goods, Cline argues that the repercussions would have been swift:

“….the cutting of the trade routes could have had a severe, and immediate, impact upon Mycenaean kingdoms such as Pylos, Tiryns, and Mycenae, which needed to import both the copper and the tin needed to produce bronze, and which seem to have imported substantial quantities of additional raw materials as well, including gold, ivory, glass, ebony wood, and the terebinth resin used in making perfume.” 

p. 138

In this hyper-connected world, the failure of just a few states, or even one state, could have had potentially severe consequences for the rest of the kingdoms. Much like a chain, a break in one link of the trade network destroyed the integrity of the entire system. Therefore, it appears that the initial destabilization and decline of the Greek kingdoms came first, and quickly afterward we see a domino effect throughout the Mediterranean and Near East. Cline writes:

“…in an interconnected system, such as was present at the end of the Late Bronze Age, the failure of one part can lead to failures in another part, in what is known as a “domino effect.”

p.167

Thus, this domino effect would have affected any kingdom that was linked to the system, especially those who relied upon it for basic resources. Unfortunately for the peoples of this period, the massive decline would not be corrected for hundreds of years, and those that survived the initial disruption lived a substantially lower quality of life than those that lived at the peak of the Bronze Age. The next great age, the Iron Age, would rise out of the ashes in about 800 BC. 

 The 21st Century Global Economy

Today’s global economy bears many similarities to the interconnected trade network of the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean. Much like the kingdoms discussed above, the United States and other western nations have become heavily reliant on the globalized trade system and therefore dependent on foreign goods. In 2016 the U.S. Geological Survey published a report showing that, out of 90 mineral commodities tracked, the U.S. was completely dependent on foreign imports for 20 of them. The U.S. was also more than 50% reliant on imports for the majority of minerals tracked. Unsurprisingly, China was the largest exporter of mineral commodities to the U.S. [6]. Mineral commodities are important because they compose many of the metals that make their way into items we use everyday. The Institute for Energy Research States: 

“…the United States is totally dependent on imports for vital strategic metals that are necessary components for military weapons systems, cellphones, solar panels, lithium ion batteries, and many high-technology products.” [7]

This dependency came to the forefront during the Covid-19 pandemic. As nations locked down and international trade grinded to a halt, the U.S. found itself in an uncomfortable position as many of the goods we rely upon became unavailable, or the lead times were extended for these items. The issues were compounded by the prevalence of Just-In-Time (JIT) shipping – the concept that a part or product will arrive at the precise time it is needed rather than being stored in a stockpile [8]. This method of shipping limits the need for warehouse space, however leaves no slack in the system for delays. We witnessed the downsides of JIT shipping during the disruptions brought on by the pandemic, as each delay caused a ripple effect throughout the system since many items lacked adequate stockpiles for emergencies. 

The majority of mineral commodities studied by the US Geographical Survey came from non-US sources, with a large portion coming from China. Source: US Geographical Survey

A New Path

During the height of the pandemic nearly 75% of companies reported supply chain issues [9], underscoring our reliance on foreign goods. Although the U.S. was largely able to recover once the lockdowns were lifted, in the future we may be less fortunate. Other events could have longer lasting and more catastrophic consequences to our global trade network. One example would be a solar flare equivalent to one that happened in 1859, known as the Carrington Event. A solar flare such as this one could wipe out the electrical grid for months, and would completely disrupt GPS and telecommunication networks that guide shipping barges and cause countless other disruptions [10]. Another possibility is simply a breakdown in diplomacy with our largest foreign suppliers, namely China. The emergence of a cold war scenario between the U.S. and China would leave the U.S. temporarily weakened and scrambling for new sources of vital supplies.

The Late Bronze Age collapse exemplifies the need to decrease dependence on foreign goods. The U.S. would become more resilient and impervious to future unforeseen events by reducing imports in favor of domestically sourced materials where possible. America would do well to heed the skeletons of the past and, instead of following in the footsteps of failed civilizations, take the path less trodden even if it means a painful readjustment period.

Sources

[1] 1177 BC The Year Civilization Collapsed, Eric H. Cline

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uluburun_shipwreck

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amarna_letters

[4] Scales of Fate, Christopher Monroe

[5]  The Merchants of Ugarit: Oligarchs of the Late Bronze Age Trade in Metals?, Carol Bell

[6] https://www.usgs.gov/news/featured-story/risk-and-reliance-us-economy-and-mineral-resources

[7] https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/international-issues/united-states-dependent-nations-critical-strategic-minerals/

[8] https://labornotes.org/2021/12/supply-chain-disruption-arrives-just-time

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8014293/

[10] https://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/what-if/what-if-solar-flare-hit-earth.htm

3 thoughts on “When Civilizations Collapse (Part One): Lessons from the Bronze Age Decline

  1. Reblogged this on Zero Lift-Off and commented:
    The fallibility of humans is an intrinsic part of their makeup so to expect any Utopia or Shangri-La modality for humanity is an absolute impossibility and out of mankind’s reach as I see it! But the more direct causality as I understand man’s history which you have pointed out well and it’s limited dead-end capabilities is the “Corruption of the Human Heart” which is the actual curse that ties humans to inevitable ruin when left to their own devices; one way or another they do themselves in every time! God explains in Holy Scriptures that He judges us by our hearts and searches them out in all men, to know his or her focal point if you will, the fulcrum on which each individual’s life is either balanced on or not! The heart is the key factor and we see now in this derelict insane global atmosphere of rampant corruption of the highest order, in some of the most diabolical humans that have ever existed on this planet who are orchestrating the demise of the masses for self-gain, power and control! Evil monsters like Klaus Schwab, George Soros, Bill Gates, Anthony Fauci, Xi Jinping with his CCP, Vladimir Putin along with the smaller monsters of civilization such as Crazy Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau, Ayatollah Khomeini, Emmanuel Macron on down to multiple corporate big wigs that with the MSM are seeking to manipulate and establish the New World Order of totalitarian control. This will be a world designed for Satan and the Antichrist!

    It’s not rocket science and any ordinary person can observe quite readily how corrupted the ways of men are currently and that it’s a given each day with all of the crime, flesh sins, greed, hate, murder all increasing exponentially, which are just some of the obvious signs of mankind’s inclination toward evil. This is way beyond just being an uphill battle to believe man on his own can reach some pinnacle successfully to “transform humanity” into some “idyllic state of wonderful existence!” But we hear maniacs like the totally insane communist minded Bernie Sanders along with countless Biden minions of the Democrat Tyrant party talk about having an opportunity to “fundamentally transform America” into their vision of what would be great for all of its citizenry! These are the ranting’s of the kind of propaganda that maniacs like Pol Pot, or Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx along with now many such mad dog lunatics in our US Government Congress, and throughout the society in the educational system, as well in many social agencies calling themselves Socialists or Progressives!

    These things are a good gauge or barometer in a sense of a crumbling civilization as the evil within the hearts and minds of men is flourishing throughout the world, already causing massive damage and death to millions of innocent persons and this is all work of the Devil, as it has nothing to do with God Almighty and Jesus Christ! I hate to inform you that now with the advent of high technology coupling AI and Digital control factors of the man-made systems tossed in; we are assuredly on a giant sinking ship; the soon to be “The Late Great Planet Earth.”

    Genesis 6:5 “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

    Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”

    Jeremiah 7:24 “Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward.”

    Psalm 141:4 “Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice deeds of wickedness With men who do iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies.”

    Genesis 8:21 “The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.”

    Psalm 14:2-4 “The LORD looks down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if any understand, if any seek God. 3All have turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. 4Will the workers of iniquity never learn? They devour my people like bread; they refuse to call upon the LORD.”

    Psalm 53:1-3 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

    Psalm 94:11 “The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are a mere breath.”

    Jeremiah 17:9-10 “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.

    Matthew 15:18-19 “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”

    Mark 7:19-23 “19because it does not enter his heart, but it goes into the stomach and then is eliminated.” (Thus all foods are clean.) 20 He continued: “What comes out of a man, that is what defiles him. 21For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. 23All these evils come from within, and these are what defile a man.”

    Simple Truth; why else did God Almighty send Jesus Christ! Because mankind on its own and continuing to carry on as from the beginning is a Lost Cause and Hopeless; doomed to complete failure with utter self-destruction; this is a given! Death is the Net Result for humans that go it alone, and are not converted to be “Disciples of Jesus Christ!”

    Isaiah 55: 7-9 “7Let the wicked man forsake his own way and the unrighteous man his own thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. 8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

    2 Timothy 3:12 “Those who try to live a godly life because they believe in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

    Mark 10:28–30 “28 Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. 29 Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for my sake, and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”

    John 16:33 “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

    Romans 2; 13-15 “13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the law who will be declared righteous. 14Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15So they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts either accusing or defending them.”

    Romans 8:11 “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

    Romans 8: 13-15 “13For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

    Matthew 15:2-20 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
    3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
    8 “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
    9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]”
    10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
    12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
    13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[d] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
    16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

    In many ways living in this decadent over the top loaded to the hilt with temptations world, is like a giant better mouse trap that Satan has relished in its development and coming, knowing that after a person is saved that the struggle against sin really heats up in his or her life to now even suicidal levels, as we can plainly see multitudes playing games and silly chasing of their own tails or those of others all day in the cyber world of click bait nonsensical rubbish thinking they are doing something substantive when going by the numbers and appearances; the “Ways of the World” accolades that are totally fool’s gold being so intoxicating and toxic; leading many to perdition. Just look at Taylor Swift who even portrays a Whore of Babylon in her music videos for this Beast System that owns her and will take her soul to hell unless she completely reverses course! Then the epitome of what I say here in a man called Joe Biden who has slipped so deeply down into the chasm of corruption he now lives in for over 50 years this is no exercise in reading the writing on the wall or no strain for any sensible mind to see what condition our global condition is in and all the while the moron politicians keep stoking the flames of hell as they say wait till the next election; we’ll fix this mess! Bull SHIT!

    All people are born with a nature that is bent and prone toward sin, which is why children don’t need to be taught how to misbehave or be brats; that comes naturally. When a person is converted and even wants to walk as Jesus instructs us to do, the sin nature does not disappear! So then the internal conflict begins in the life of every believer. We are in a struggle which I say we are not free from or one where we can’t rest on our laurels thinking we got it made by virtue of any of our accomplishments or claim to be faithful, because we are not “home free” until we sit before God in judgment, and then and only then our truest intents are all sorted out bringing our own deserved net result! People today are way too nonchalant and thinking they got it figured, or so they deceive themselves to think so! Frittering and wasting their time away in “Ways of The World” allowing themselves to be fully incorporated and corrupted by it; that is a doomed person on the “Wide Road to Perdition!”

    I tell you now mark my words and pay attention fully, for your own sake; this is what Jesus warned about because it’s absolutely true!

    Matthew 7:14-15 “13 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it. 15Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

    We’ve heard the term and even seen a movie about a “Run Away Train;” and such a thing has too much of its own inertia to be slowed or stopped before it runs off the rails or turns into a complete and utter total train wreck! So too, many people in this artificial running rampant world of man’s own devices or concoctions, which now has “a mind of its own” not leading to any happy eternal conclusion for those who don’t recognize their own folly and lack of true devoted hearts to God!

    John 5:41-43 “41I do not accept glory from men, 42but I know you, that you do not have the love of God within you. 43I have come in My Father’s name, and you have not received Me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will receive him.”

    Psalm 37:3-5 “3Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. 5Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will do it.”

    God bless.
    Brother in Christ Jesus,
    Lawrence Morra III

    Liked by 2 people

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