The best books on the Bronze Age

2 authors have picked their favorite books about the Bronze Age and why they recommend each book.

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1177 BC The Year Civilization Collapsed

By Eric Cline,

Book cover of 1177 BC The Year Civilization Collapsed

The Bronze Age was followed by the Iron Age. What caused this epochal shift? Eric Cline outlines just how cataclysmic the 12th and 13th centuries BC really were. Be prepared for fire, earthquakes, and a tide of war!

Who am I?

I'm a Scottish writer, addicted to reading and writing historical fiction. My love of history was first kindled by visits to the misty Roman ruins of Britain and the sun-baked antiquities of Turkey and Greece. My expeditions since have taken me all over the world and back and forth through time (metaphorically, at least), allowing me to write tales of the later Roman Empire, Byzantium, Classical Greece and even the distant Bronze Age.


I wrote...

Empires of Bronze: Son of Ishtar

By Gordon Doherty,

Book cover of Empires of Bronze: Son of Ishtar

What is my book about?

Four sons. One throne. A world on the precipice. Set in 1315 BC, and with tensions soaring between the great powers of the Late Bronze Age. The Hittites stand toe-to-toe with Egypt, Assyria and Mycenaean Ahhiyawa, and war seems inevitable. More, the fierce Kaskan tribes – age-old enemies of the Hittites – amass at the northern borders.

When Prince Hattu is born, it should be a rare joyous moment for all the Hittite people. But when the Goddess Ishtar comes to King Mursili in a dream, she warns that the boy is no blessing, telling of a dark future where he will stain Mursili’s throne with blood and bring destruction upon the world. Thus, Hattu endures a solitary boyhood in the shadow of his siblings, spurned by his father and shunned by the Hittite people. But when the Kaskans invade, Hattu is drawn into the fray. It is a savage journey in which he strives to show his worth and valour. Yet with his every step, the shadow of Ishtar’s prophecy darkens…

The Corridors of Time

By Poul Anderson,

Book cover of The Corridors of Time

I read this classic sci-fi way back when I was a teenager and I think, over the years, it has been a quiet, persistent influence on my own writing.

Two groups of time-travellers go back and forth along ‘the corridors of Time,’ fighting to influence history their way. The protagonist is taken from a prison cell to join one group and has to catch up with what’s going on as he’s taken to the future, the seventeenth century, and the Bronze Age.

What stayed with me most vividly was Anderson’s recreation of the Danish Bronze Age and the fact that the main character chooses to give up his own time in order to remain in the Bronze Age with the people he has come to love.


Who am I?

I was seven when our headmaster told us about Stone-Age people using stone tools and living in caves. This seemed so unlikely that I checked with my Dad before believing it, but after that, I loved history. I adored the idea of time machines: a day trip to Ancient Rome! A selfie with a saber-tooth! Writing allowed me to time-travel to whenever I liked and to use what I learned about how people lit and warmed their homes, cooked their food, and worshipped their gods. It was inevitable that I would write a time travel book, and it’s a real pleasure to revisit some books that inspired me.


I wrote...

The Sterkarm Handshake

By Susan Price,

Book cover of The Sterkarm Handshake

What is my book about?

The ruthless FUP Corporation intends to use a time machine to strip the past of fossil fuel. They go back 500 years to the border between England and Scotland and dismiss the local Sterkarm family as ‘peasants armed with sticks.’ Big mistake. The Sterkarms are a smart and war-like clan, armed with longbows and eight-foot lances. Superb light cavalry, they acknowledge no rule but their own and defend their land against all comers.

FUP embeds their researcher, Andrea Mitchell, with the Sterkarms and she falls in love with Per, the chief’s handsome son. As misunderstanding grows between the Sterkarms and the 21st Century ‘Elves’, Andrea struggles to keep the peace. But when the two centuries go to war, she is forced to pick a side…

Palestine

By Nur Masalha,

Book cover of Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History

The Palestinian writer, Nur Masalha, traces Palestine's thousands of years old heritage, uncovering cultures and societies of extraordinary depth and complexity that stretch back to the very beginnings of recorded history. Starting with the earliest references in Egyptian and Assyrian texts, Nur Masalha explores how Palestine and its Palestinian identity have evolved over thousands of years, from the Bronze Age to the present day. Drawing on a rich body of sources and the latest archaeological evidence, Masalha shows how Palestine’s multicultural past has been distorted and mythologised by Biblical lore and the Israel–Palestinian conflict. 


Who am I?

From a young age, I have been obsessed with the Arabic language and culture. In 1959, I studied this language at Durham University, graduating Summa Cum Laude – including living with a Palestinian family in Jerusalem for a number of months. Then moving on to further studies in Arabic at Cambridge University, graduating with a First Class Honors degree. Over the next decades, I have made many trips to the Middle East, working on a number of projects, including stints in North Africa, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jerusalem, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf. Most recently, I served as the Arabic consultant on the Netflix TV series House of Cards.


I wrote...

The Making of a Suicide Bomber

By David Stansfield,

Book cover of The Making of a Suicide Bomber

What is my book about?

A couple of months ago, my wife stumbled on a notebook I’d kept while living with a Palestinian family in Jerusalem in the summer of 1961 to brush up my colloquial Arabic as part of my studies in that language at Cambridge University. I’d completely forgotten about this notebook and was amazed when I read it 60 years later and realized that it was a book waiting to be written.

Hence The Making of a Suicide Bomber, my attempt to put you, the reader, into the shoes of one particular people, some of whose members have been driven to such an extreme of pain and desperation they are prepared to do the unthinkable. This personal Odyssey proceeds through half a lifetime of experience with the Arab world that ends – well, but for the grace of God, it could well have ended very much as described in my book.

Ancient Turkey

By Seton Lloyd,

Book cover of Ancient Turkey: A Traveller's History

This is the vicarious traveler’s delight. ‘Sensory’ doesn’t quite cover the delightful descriptives in Lloyd’s ‘Ancient Turkey’. He takes you on a journey across the varied and beautiful landscape of Anatolia and though time as well - from prehistory through the Bronze Age when the Hittite Empire dominated and the legend of Troy was born, on to the time of King Midas and right up to the Greek and Roman periods.

Who am I?

I'm a Scottish writer, addicted to reading and writing historical fiction. My love of history was first kindled by visits to the misty Roman ruins of Britain and the sun-baked antiquities of Turkey and Greece. My expeditions since have taken me all over the world and back and forth through time (metaphorically, at least), allowing me to write tales of the later Roman Empire, Byzantium, Classical Greece and even the distant Bronze Age.


I wrote...

Empires of Bronze: Son of Ishtar

By Gordon Doherty,

Book cover of Empires of Bronze: Son of Ishtar

What is my book about?

Four sons. One throne. A world on the precipice. Set in 1315 BC, and with tensions soaring between the great powers of the Late Bronze Age. The Hittites stand toe-to-toe with Egypt, Assyria and Mycenaean Ahhiyawa, and war seems inevitable. More, the fierce Kaskan tribes – age-old enemies of the Hittites – amass at the northern borders.

When Prince Hattu is born, it should be a rare joyous moment for all the Hittite people. But when the Goddess Ishtar comes to King Mursili in a dream, she warns that the boy is no blessing, telling of a dark future where he will stain Mursili’s throne with blood and bring destruction upon the world. Thus, Hattu endures a solitary boyhood in the shadow of his siblings, spurned by his father and shunned by the Hittite people. But when the Kaskans invade, Hattu is drawn into the fray. It is a savage journey in which he strives to show his worth and valour. Yet with his every step, the shadow of Ishtar’s prophecy darkens…

Warlock

By Wilbur Smith,

Book cover of Warlock

Wilbur Smith, who sadly passed in November 2021, trailblazed adventure writing. While The River God is perhaps his most memorable entry in his Ancient Egypt series, Warlock is stuffed with descriptions of military training and combat. I particularly enjoyed ‘The Red Road’ sequence – while not battle-focused, Mr. Smith took pains to unpack the various modes of fighting available to contemporary Bronze Age Egyptians.

Smith’s detailing of chariot-centered battle would satisfy everyone from engineers to historians - particularly in Warlock’s climax. Javelins and bows hurtling from hundreds of chariots makes for a unique style of combat that is difficult to acquire elsewhere – as is the struggles of engaging in mass military operations when surrounded by desert.


Who am I?

I am fascinated by how societies conduct war. Who is expected to fight, and how are they organized? How is technology developed, implemented, and improvised in the heat of battle? And, most importantly, how do its participants make sense of the carnage around them? History is replete with tales of savagery and courage, of honor and depravity. Perilously few of these have been formed into novels, leaving an incomplete and disjointed understanding of thousands of years of struggle. Many authors, including those listed here, paved the path for holistic depictions of historical battle fiction – my hope is to contribute tales from oft-neglected societies, beginning with Belisarius and the 6th-Century Roman Empire.


I wrote...

The Last Dying Light: A Novel of Belisarius (The Last of the Romans)

By William Havelock,

Book cover of The Last Dying Light: A Novel of Belisarius (The Last of the Romans)

What is my book about?

Twilight has come to the husk of the Roman Empire, mired in corruption and decay. As a new dynasty ascends to the purple, a band of patricians hatch a desperate scheme to restore the Empire to its glory. Their first task is to bring peace to the provinces, including the distant northern lands of Chersonesus, where towns are being slowly razed by an unseen enemy, all signs of life erased in their wake.

The new Emperor calls upon his undermanned armies to voyage across the Euxine Sea. Once there, however, the Empire’s soldiers find few survivors within the hinterlands, and pervasive darkness inhabiting its mists. They are not alone, and have only a promising young general to lead them through the carnage ahead.

Hekla's Children

By James Brogden,

Book cover of Hekla's Children

Back to fiction and spooky places. This weaves history, myth, and reality together until you don’t know which way is up. Beautifully written and researched, it will transport you into the world just beyond ours and it has a level of darkness a horror fan will enjoy. I’d say it’s more of a supernatural thriller, but it twists into horror at times. I love this because it once more weaves the real with the mythological, using British traditions to capture your imagination and transport you to new realities.


Who am I?

I’ve written about war for years. To be honest, it all began in school when we studied the terrible events of The Great War. Hearing the hearts shatter of men on the frontline never left me. I wanted to understand. I needed to understand. PTSD is something I’m familiar with, even if I’ve never been on the front line in battle. I’m also obsessed with myths, legends, ghost stories, and mysteries. My Lorne Turner series combines my passions and the books shine a light, in fiction, on what happens to old soldiers when they come home.


I wrote...

Counting Crows: One For Murder

By Joe Talon,

Book cover of Counting Crows: One For Murder

What is my book about?

The moor is darkening. Lorne Turner feels it in his bones. His instincts, honed by years on the battlefields of the desert, scream in warning. Or is it the monster in his head? When Detective Inspector Tony Shaw tells him the obvious occult symbols on a dead man are nothing more than faked staging, Lorne knows his instincts are right, and the police are wrong. There is darkness and it’s spreading. An ancient spirit line is awoken. Its pain seeping down from Dunkery Beacon, the highest point on Exmoor, to the ancient woodland church of Culbone on the coast. Its whispering dead are seeking justice.

Aegean Linear Script(s)

By Ester Salgarella,

Book cover of Aegean Linear Script(s): Rethinking the Relationship Between Linear A and Linear B

Linear A, the script that preceded Linear B in Crete, has long attracted attempts at decipherment. Ester Salgarella, who is a colleague of mine at Cambridge, would not claim to have deciphered Linear A, but her work on the script and its relation to Linear B is brilliant at reframing the question about the relationship between the two. If you read this after Andrew Robinson’s account of Linear A (in his Lost Languages book mentioned above), you might be surprised by how much progress has been made.  


Who am I?

I was lucky enough to have been taught Latin at school, and I remember my first teacher telling the class that a tandem bicycle was so called because Latin tandem means ‘at length’. That was the beginning with my fascination for words, etymologies, and languages. At University I was able to specialise in Greek, Latin, and Indo-European languages and then for my PhD I learnt Armenian (which has an alphabet to die for: 36 letters each of which has four different varieties, not counting ligatures!). I am now Professor of Comparative Philology at the University of Cambridge. 


I wrote...

Language and Society in the Greek and Roman Worlds

By James Clackson,

Book cover of Language and Society in the Greek and Roman Worlds

What is my book about?

My book explores the ancient Greek and Roman worlds through language. It is well known that Romans spoke Latin and Ancient Greeks spoke Ancient Greek, but the complete picture is more complex and more interesting. Lots of other languages were spoken (some of which were only recently deciphered, others are still imperfectly understood), and many people were bi- or multilingual. Latin and Greek themselves came in numerous different varieties, dependent on geography, social status, and education. In my book (which can be read by anyone who doesn’t know a word of Latin, Greek, or Etruscan) I show how we can use languages to find out more about ancient societies, ranging from what language(s) Jesus spoke to what swearwords Cicero might have used. 

Language of Amarna - Language of Diplomacy

By J. Jana Mynarova,

Book cover of Language of Amarna - Language of Diplomacy: Perspectives on the Amarna Letters

Better known as Amarna Heresy, a philosophical discussion from Ancient Egypt's Babylon about Monotheism and Trinity written 3,000 years ago. “To the King, My Sun, My God, the Breath of My Life…” This remarkable collection contains requests for gold, offers of marriage, warning of a traitor, and promises of loyalty to the pharaoh – letters of correspondence, all written in Akkadian. The Amorite tribes from Babylonia, form part of this correspondence.

Akhenaten 1378 - 1361 BC, was the first Egyptian ruler in history, who has specifically written about Egyptian Gods, a practice usually kept behind the closed doors of the temples. The deity called Aten inspired such devotion in Pharaoh Akhenaten that he built a new capital city which he named ‘Horizon of the Aten’ (modern Amarna), dedicated to the AΘen. He spoke of a deity with no image, an omnipotent God/goddess that emanates aNX, holy spirits, served by…


Who am I?

Nataša Pantović holds an MSc in Economics and is a Maltese Serbian novelist, adoptive parent, and ancient worlds’ consciousness researcher. Using stories of ancient Greek and Egyptian philosophers and ancient artists she inspires researchers to reach beyond their self-imposed boundaries. In the last five years, she has published 3 historical fiction and 7 non-fiction books with the Ancient Worlds' focus. She speaks English, Serbian, all Balkan Slavic languages, Maltese and Italian. She has also helped build a school in a remote village of Ethiopia, and has since adopted two kids, as a single mum!


I wrote...

Metaphysics of Sound: In Search of The Name of God

By Nataša Pantović,

Book cover of Metaphysics of Sound: In Search of The Name of God

What is my book about?

Join Nataša Pantović on a mind-boggling tour of history and sounds - from the Ancient Sumerian Priestess Sin Liturgy right up to the development of Ancient Greek and Cyrillic alphabet. This new novel contains a dialogue between two European cultures, Roman and Greek from an Ancient Slavic perspective, an intimate encounter of Balkan, its history and culture, a glimpse into the evolution of Ancient Egyptian’s, Ancient Maltese, Ancient Greek - Yonic and Slavic sounds. A Brief History of the world Beyond the Usual (the subtitle of the book) contains the historical overview of the development of people, sounds, and symbols as frequencies.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

By Julian Jaynes,

Book cover of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

Despite the rather off-putting title, I found this book really interesting. Written by a specialist psychologist, it presented a new theory about the way human thinking has developed from the earliest beginnings. I was particularly interested in his concept that ancient man ‘heard the voice of god’ inside his mind, but as ‘primitive’ humans became more individualised, the gods were heard less often, until they could no longer be heard at all. This resonates with the myths that in a Golden Age humankind ‘walked with God’ but as aeons passed, the gods retreated. At this juncture, people started to construct images of their gods and divination appeared as a way to contact ‘the divine’. But that is a tiny part of this thought-provoking work.

Who am I?

I have always seen my life as a journey, with lessons to be learnt along the way. Adventures on land and sea have drawn me into contact with many races and traditions and brought me close to nature in its many moods. When a physical journey ends, an inner journey takes me in directions I had never looked at before. Early spiritual questioning led me to eastern philosophies and made me aware of the underlying links between all cultures. In relying on my own experiences rather than what others have written, I believe my writing brings a freshness and individuality to the age-old questions of who we are and where we are going.


I wrote...

The Magic of Tao in The Tarot

By Sarita Armstrong,

Book cover of The Magic of Tao in The Tarot

What is my book about?

The Tao in the Tarot correlates the archetypes of the Major Arcana of the Tarot and hexagrams of The I-Ching, which Taoism underpins. After placing the 22 Major Arcana cards in a circle, like a Wheel of Life, I came to appreciate the oriental aspect concealed within it. Each tarot archetype is yin or yang in its attributes and a combined yin/yang card joins each pair of opposites. They formed a trail of triangles which reminded me of a string of DNA.

The basic numbers inherent in the Major Arcana and the I-Ching connect these two divinatory methods. The grail legend, antique deities, music, and dance are no less a part of the narrative.

London Under

By Peter Ackroyd,

Book cover of London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets

I enjoy Ackroyd's novels as well as his biographies, the former almost always being set in London which he, as a noted flaneur, loves. London Under is not fiction, though it often references the literature and mythologies which have grown up around certain places and landmarks within London, from its earliest incarnation before it was even a city to the present day. Ackroyd chronicles how the London of one time reappears and impacts upon the London of another time, one stratum intruding upon another and shows how the world below mirrors and reflects the world above. This is not unlike how I wanted the clandestine and criminal world to mirror and reflect the above ground and above-board world in my novel Plague.


Who am I?

I've lived and worked in London for most of my adult life and am perpetually astonished, amazed, and fascinated by the city around me. It's histories, small and large, are a constant delight and surprise for me, and its hidden places of enchantment fire my imagination. So, when I came to write my first novel, for Claret Press, there was no other place where it could possibly be set and I chose central London which I knew very well and had layer upon physical layer of history. Given that it was a crime thriller, it had to use those hidden places, which mirrored the surface world, as part of the plot. Walk with me along one of London's lost rivers on my website


I wrote...

Plague

By Julie Anderson,

Book cover of Plague

What is my book about?

Work on a London tube line is halted by the discovery of an ancient plague pit and in it, a very recent corpse. A day later another body is found, which is linked with the Palace of Westminster. As the number of deaths climbs Government assurances are disbelieved and a disgraced civil servant and a policeman must find the killer before more die. Power, money, and love curdle into a deadly brew that could bring down Parliament itself.

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