PEOPLE OF THE SEA Final Front Cover


1 eastern Med map

The Eastern Mediterranean Bronze-to-Iron Age circa 1400-1100 BCE. Deucalion’s and Pyrrha’s diplomatic gifting-tour takes almost two years: from the Paphos region of Cyprus to Ugarit, Byblos and Tyre, Ascalon and Gaza—and thence from Egypt’s Pelusium and Pharos to the vast territories of Libyan tribes. There, winter and gifts among the Meshwesh initiate trade in sylphium, the rare but renowned contraceptive plant.

Minoan seal

Your life under sail is in good hands with crusty captain Ramose: his peers are the true “sea-kings” of the age, because their skills against all odds disperse the benefits of international contact. Now comes the trip’s biggest leap across open sea, and for pesky fun on the way Ramose poses a WHAT AM I? riddle, below.

If you know the answer, post it at this link:

First right answer wins


 …Launching out north and west for Sicily, for the first time we lost all land. Seven frightening nights we rocked out there against the wind, tiny creaking toys: the moon was waning-weak and if the sailors were nervous, so was I. Ramose wasn’t just sailing aslant each sun that set ahead of us. One eye on a cloud or star, he sniffed wind, fished out seaweed, dragged a reckoning-rope; then he ordered turns and turns-again, as if he saw interlocking rivers in the waves. Turns in the middle of nowhere! Breezing up-deck past me with a riddle-tune, adept of the world:

No wing or oar can reach me,

no colors like my own:

no sailors ever beach me,

except as skull and bone…

People of the Sea BACK COVER ART

Fans of these fields might know what our ship’s company do not—that making for Sicily takes them past yet another half-known but astounding age of matricultural achievement. Today you can walk the gigantic stone temples of Neolithic Malta and its handful of isles (active for 2100 years after 3600), whose people imagined their Earth Mother in sculptured masterpieces full and fertile, sleeping on Her side, dreaming the world…

Sicily map fr Holloway

Not long ago in these waters, a whole Minoan fleet paid the price of Crete’s mistakes. But thanks to Brown University’s R. Ross Holloway (1982’s Italy & The Aegean 3000-700 BC, and The Archaeology of Sicily 1991), we can see little Thapsos building up and reaching out in post-Minoan times. The gifts we bring are two-fold: family rescued out of Achaian hands back at Knossos, and new ways of building in the Cyprus-style warehouses shown below.

Local people, then, are linking themselves back into the greater world, in time even crafting market knock-offs of fancy eastern styles of pottery. The so-called “breasted tree” design in the vessel below has Cretan and Canaanite cousins, where the worship of life goes on eternally now through wheeling seasons…

Thapsos w Cyprus style warehouses, after 1400, Holloway p35 Fig 47     Thapsos culture home, Bronze Age Sicily, fr Holloway p 33 Fig 43

Thapsos early fig, later vase

So for now there seems a future here even if, like Crete, the place isn’t far enough from a giant and restless volcano (Aetna). Deucalion leaves an offering most dear toward that future (the family’s in the book), and the boat turns back toward sunrise, coasting now carefully homeward…


If Thapsos rises looking eastward, Mycenaean/Achaian Pylos grows too, gazing west back across the Adriatic. One of multiple power-centers competing on the southern future-Greek mainland (like Tiryns and Mycenae), Pylos records show a fortified warrior-aristocracy with a figure called wanax its emerging kind of king: his hold on loyalty, the flow of wealth derived from often-predatory adventure. In time here, Sacker of Cities will honor heroes who pass the loot in gold and goods, horses, women and children (rationed on figs while they pound flax for textiles).

High styles again derive from Crete. You judge whether that’s by hook or crook, in the goods of the new-found grave of Pylos’ Griffin Warrior (click on his ring):

Griffin Warrior's ring

Achaian woman fr Mykenai

If a seat reflects honor at a Mycenaean socio-political gathering, the majority of images we have show seated women. But, while priestesses still work the land through country sanctuaries alongside priests, women’s political or other powers are unclear. For Deucalion and Pyrrha, there’s a “tone of trade” here different from any other place:

Pylos hall

…They had a woman of court, Eritha, to handle our gifts, which house-pride would only accept as trade. We looked to make an inside friend, and Eritha poured wine, a hard Achaian jaw to her handsome forties, a peaked cap that let brown locks curl down her temples to her blue robe. She began to moan last year’s crops, pointing from her terrace mouths to feed along the bay…

In short, she needed twice the usual trade-lots for her countryside’s speckled chunks of purple basalt. Pyrrha calmly mentioned droughts in Cyprus, crews and cargoes lost in storms, and we had not doubled our demands…

–This is all I can do for you. Most people don’t mind, Eritha shrugged. Pyrrha minded, but she managed to regain old terms with a bribe of Gaza myrrh, and a Meshwesh jug of something quite reliable. And still Eritha wore some kind of a cheated smile, as we were marched and driven out…

Cyclades 1

Well, at least it sweetens return to the post-Minoan islands like the Cyclades. Yes, the waters of the Aegean Sea (4 times saltier than the Atlantic) really are that luminous crystal-blue. And, if night finds you under sail between islands, you’ll see the indigo “wine-dark sea” Homer mentioned, with bright pools of phosphorescence rising and falling all around you, like a dark mirror of the starry sky…

Cyclades 2

Pelasgoi (or Pelasgians, “people of the open sea,” the general name for these islands’ earliest tribes) were mixing traits of the east (Anatolia) and western mainland for at least 2000 years before Crete’s Minoans came on the scene with their thalassocracy or trade-protective fleet. The Cyclades’ small family groups lived well on seafood (some with 50-man boats), sheep and goats, pigs, emmer wheat, wild barley—and no doubt their artists’ quick observant eye and good humor taught Crete a thing or two. Their spiritual and social ways, like Crete’s too, centered on Earth Mother and their ancestors:

Cycladic figures, Gi-Gaia and ancestors

Cycladic warp-weighted loom, harper

In the whole Cycladic-Minoan town found buried under Theran ash on Santorini, you can see the rich, eye-ravishing, egalitarian hybrid of life-ways these combinations produced—and not a king in sight. Yet, hopping islands homeward from Kythera and Naxos toward Miletus, Deucalion and Pyrrha see “a tide…dragging the anchor of the islands.”

As in Crete, where once stood a thriving Minoan-built center of community and trade, they find mostly ruins from Thera volcano’s devastations, and the new presence of mainland Mycenaeans.

Their eyes remember “negotiation, kinship alliances, the movements of women,” but now they see “intrusion, force, the mainland corporate state.” Those terms come from archaeologist John Younger’s 2013 review of many scholars who studied Minoan-vs.-Mycenaean differences in the Cyclades. They described Minoan building that facilitated mixing, light influence and trade—while, as in conquered Crete, later times saw more signs of separation, more-exclusive feasting practices, crudely commercial installations and, in spite of the possible benefits, a lack of “conceptual connection” between mainland ways and islanders’. With Crete’s protection gone, fear of conquest is giving more weight to the warriors—and isle by isle, new opportunists work that fear to their manly advantage… 


Coasting their way southeast at last through the Dodecanese (“Twelve Isles”), the stops are old Minoan-familiar ports, Miletus, Cnidus and Caunus: homes of the Carians (“people of Great Mother Car”), whose sailing-sons or Leleges had a major role in Crete’s broad “loose confederacy.” Now, it’s more of same: Mycenaean raiders (whose home-records list the slaves taken here) in their waters, and at their backs the predatory might of the Hittites…

Iasos, in Caria, sw Turkey

Some dreadful new kind of world is closing in—and yet, for a few feasting moments, it’s welcome-back to certainties in Cyprus…

Cyprus 1

But People of the Sea is a story, in part, of a man and people learning their way out of violence: the cutting edge of their world, and a challenge no stranger to ourselves. Naturally, then, the betrayals of an older wiser way come from within Deucalion, from within the families around him—and they’re no sooner landed than all of them suffer a new kind of shocking surprise, from Karfi men whom Deucalion himself helped turn toward a self-destructive answer…

Cyprus cult meal

Here in closing are three reflections born of the story so far—and, a glimpse of “what’s coming” indeed.

1) There’s a vast old world of different cultures out there, all interconnected, and they have spiritual and social ways to mix, learn and benefit across differences;

2) The signs tell a rising tide of change toward kings and violence; and,

3) The West’s ancient matricultural web is going to need all its memory and strengths to survive what’s coming…

Sea People warriors

People of the Sea, PROLOGUE art  [260] Sea Peoples' battle with Egypt & Ramses III, c 1190s BCE

Ascalon site

Philistine coffin crowd

Mideast Roads and Israelite 'gilgal' gathering camp

The map at left shows the highways of trade between Egypt and the East. Sea Peoples/Philistines built their share of the land on a promise from a real Pharaoh: keep order on those roads, or else. The gilgal or early Israelite gathering-camp at right relates, according to archaeologists, to their “separatist” claim upon the whole multicultural region from sea to Babylon, on a promise from a god known only to them. Outsiders were free to be servants, to leave, or to die.

Yet in fact, with so much in common—from intense religious life to bad experience with Egypt, from their tribes’ fierce joyful independence to their mutual hatred of kings— the old narrative of a fated Culture War between Philistine “pagans” and The Chosen Of The One True God no longer holds. The more archaeologists dig, the more they use the word “entanglement” as the real daily norm. (In parallel, it’s clear now that The Trojan War wasn’t fought over Helen.)

Something more thumpingly obvious must have come between these worlds. That’s what People of the Sea searches out in the lives of human families on all sides.


Qadesh stele from Canaan WITH HORNS-DISC

The changes they bring to us are as luminous as liberating.



PEOPLE OF THE SEA Final Front Cover



About Dr Jack Dempsey

Always good to hear from you! A life-long freelance writer/editor, Brown University Ph.D. (in Native & Early American Studies)---novelist ("Ariadne's Brother," "People of the Sea"), historian and biographer ("New English Canaan," "Thomas Morton," "Mystic Fiasco" and more), producer ("Nani: A Native New England Story"), Book Editor/Public Speaking Coach: Bentley University Adjunct Assistant Professor of English, Media Studies & Communications (Best Part Time Prof 2010). Latest works? Scientific nonfiction on the lunar/solar calendar of ancient Minoan Crete---"The Knossos Calendar: Minoan Cycles of the Sun, the Moon, the Soul & Political Power" (Iraklion, Mystis 2016), based on lectures drawn from "Calendar House: Clues to Minoan Time from Knossos Labyrinth" (2011). Come and enjoy multimedia resources including filmed Native American interviews at ANCIENTLIGHTS.ORG
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