An interview with Eric H. Cline, author of 1177 B.C.The Year Civilization Collapsed
What inspired you to get into your field?
My mother gave me a book when I was seven years old. It was called The Walls of Windy Troy and was a biography of Heinrich Schlieman. After reading it, I announced that I was going to become an archaeologist. When I graduated from college with a degree in Classical Archaeology, my mother gave me the same book again . . .
What would you have been if not an archaeologist?
What is the biggest misunderstanding people have about what archaeologists do?
They think that I look for dinosaurs.
What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
Do what you love and love what you do.
Why did you write this book?
I wanted to write about WHAT collapsed as well as explore how and why it collapsed…
What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?
There were numerous interesting things that I learned from writing the book. Among these I would highlight the fact that the Sea Peoples seem to have been given a raw deal in previous scholarly literature and have been used as convenient scapegoats, blamed for ending the Late Bronze Age. In fact, they were just one of the numerous factors that contributed to the demise of multiple civilizations at that time and may have been as much victims as oppressors. Also, I was intrigued to see that there were so many factors, or stressors/drivers, that contributed to the collapse; I had initially thought that I'd be able to explain away and dismiss one or two, but all of them make some sort of sense. On the other hand, when one thinks about it, that in itself makes sense -- civilizations have survived droughts; they have survived famines; they have survived earthquakes; they have survived invaders; but in almost every case, they only had to handle those disasters one at a time. So, when there are multiple disasters all at once, that's when civilizations might not be able to outlast and survive them. And that seems to have been the case at the end of the Late Bronze Age.
What do you think is the book's most important contribution?
I think that the book's most important contribution is going to depend upon the individual reader, for it will be different for each one. Some readers, like Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker, appreciate learning the history and stories of the 300 years during which the various Late Bronze Age civilizations were flourishing . . . and realizing the parallels to today's globalized world. Others are more interested in the fact that the Collapse occurred and see parallels to today's world. Perhaps most surprising to me is the extent to which some readers have latched on to the fact that there was climate change back then, even in the days before the burning of fossil fuels and emissions from cars, etc, etc, and are now applying it to their own arguments, for instance in the NY Post and the National Review Online. Also, I knew that the book's theme of Collapse would resonate with many in today's world, but I wasn't quite prepared for its timeliness, with "disaster" and "collapse" scenarios for our own civilization seeming to appear on a weekly basis at the moment!
What is your next project?
Continue to dig at Megiddo and Kabri during the summers. Writing a book about Megiddo – an archaeological history of Armageddon