1. SHERDEN & DANUNA MERCENARIES; EGYPT, 14th CENTURY BC
1): Sherden warrior
The most ancient representation of the ‘Shardana’ mercenaries in Egyptian art can be found in the reliefs representing
the campaigns of Ramesses II in Syria. Note the leather helmet with a single horn; the Aegean/Anatolian style of kilt
with a panel pattern and tasselled strings; the shield with multiple bosses; and the long sword of Anatolian origin, copied
from one of the specimens published by the archaeologist Flinders Petrie.
2): Danuna warrior
This mercenary wears a typical ‘boar’s-tusk’ helmet of Aegean Greek origin. His bronze spearhead, from the
Uluburun shipwreck, has a leaf-shaped blade and a solid-cast seamless socket. This kind of spearhead was probably
influenced by weapons made in the northern Balkans and Eastern Europe, but most examples found in the Aegean are
thought to be local products. Note the pectoral amulet and medallion worn by A1 and this figure.
3): Danuna warrior
Copied from the fragmentary Amarna Papyrus, he wears the typical pleated white kilt of Egyptian troops. Here we
interpret the headgear alternatively, as a helmet of layered and stitched fabric or leather. His body protection consists
of a short-cropped fabric or hide corselet; its upper part is protected by a bronze collar, and there are bronze
reinforcements at the other edges. His Aegean Type D sword is copied from the Uluburun specimen. Again, note his
4): Egyptian woman
Copied from one of the musicians in the fresco from the tomb of Nebamon; note her double pipes. The domed object
worn on the top of her wig is made of a wax that dissolved in warm weather, leaving a perfumed fragrance in the air
2. SHERDEN MERCENARIES MARCHING TO KADESH, 1274 BC
In the Kadesh inscription of Ramesses II the Great we read of the pharaoh preparing his troops for battle, including the
Sherden ‘whom he had brought back by victory of his strong arm’ (i.e., men captured in a previous campaign and
pressed into military service).
1): Regular infantryman
This soldier is copied from the Luxor pylons commemorating the battle of Kadesh. His bronze helmet bowl is similar to
many specimens from central Europe, but here it displays horn and disc ornaments, and is worn over the typical
Egyptian striped headcloth (klaft). His javelin-head is taken from Anatolian examples; in his left hand he holds a short,
single-edged bladed weapon of wavy shape, copied from a specimen found at Tell Es-Sa‘idiyeh in modern Jordan.
2): ‘Sea Shardana’
This veteran mercenary protects himself, like his countryman of the Royal Guard (3), with a dark buckler, probably of
leather, though here lacking bronze bosses; in carvings it is shown to have a single central grip. His bronze stabbing
sword (of a class called by some historians a ‘rapier’, from its function) is 60cm (23.62in) long overall; the colours and
decoration of the hilt are copied from the tomb of Ramesses III.
3): Royal guardsman
Copied from the Abu Simbel paintings of the battle of Kadesh. The fluted appearance of the cap-like helmet is
interpreted as slices of bone or ivory tusks in an Aegean or Syrian style of construction, and it is surmounted by two
horns and a central disc insignia. He is equipped with an Egyptian corselet, apparently provided only to the Royal
Guard; it is probably made of quilted linen, and is worn over a stiffened kilt with a triangular frontal piece (shenti). The
Medinet Habu reliefs indicate that such armours were fastened at the side by means of loops and bronze buttons. His
sword is a rare specimen published by Flinders Petrie, dated to the reign of Ramesses II; it closely resembles those
seen in painted sources. The bronze bosses on the bucklers of guardsmen are shown as arranged either in an outer and
an inner ring, or an outer ring around a central boss.
3. THE FIRST EGYPTIAN CAMPAIGN, 1207 BC
Three of these figures represent captives taken by the army of Pharaoh Merneptah, as recorded in the ‘Great Karnak
1): Lukka warrior
This prisoner is copied from the Luxor reliefs of Kadesh representing the allies of the Hittites. In their appearances in
Egyptian art the Sea Peoples are distinguishable from each other primarily by their headdress. This example, a sort of
baggy swept-back turban with a bronze fillet, is also associated with the Teresh and other Hittite allies; it is probably
made of linen or felt.
2): Teresh warrior
A common feature of the depicted dress of the Sea Peoples is the kilt with tasselled strings, native to southern Anatolia
or the Levant but also widely used by Aegean warriors at that time. The Teresh and the Shekelesh apparently wore
banded linen or leather armours. Their headdress was similar to that of the Shasu Bedouins, but also to some low caps
of Aegean typology; here it is copied from the Medinet Habu reliefs.
3): Ekwesh warrior
This Achaean warrior from Cyprus is copied from an ivory artefact from Enkomi on that island. He is protected by
quilted armour made of leather, felt or other organic material. The decoration of his colourful kilt shows a mixture of
Egyptian, Aegean and Levantine styles. Note his helmet, very similar in its structure to those represented in the
fragmentary Amarna Papyrus.
4): Egyptian guardsman, Pdt n šmsw
This officer carries both a bow and quiver, and a baton or mace as both a symbol of rank and a means of punishment.
The klaft helmet, with fringed edge, is probably made of leather and padded inside. Note his corselet of quilted and
padded linen like that of the Sherden guardsman, Plate B3.
4. SEA BATTLE OFF ALASHIYA, CYPRUS, c.1200–1190 BC
The Hittite ‘great king’ Suppiluliuma II wrote that he attacked ships from Alashiya at sea and burned them,
subsequently landing on the shore of Alashiya and bringing the enemy to battle. Several finds in the city of Enkomi and
other areas of Cyprus reveal the presence there of Sea Peoples.
1): Alashiyan priest-king
This Achaean king is reconstructed from the famous statuette found in Enkomi representing a horned warrior-deity.
Note his sceptre with two sitting eagles on the spherical head, and his rich gold jewellery and ornaments, all from
2): Cypriot aristocratic eqeta
This elite warrior is copied from an ivory gaming box found at Enkomi, with decoration representing a hunting scene.
His scale armour is reconstructed from fragments recovered in Cyprus. His helmet is from the ‘Enkomi seal’; it shows
elements of Aegean and Syrian features, such as the embossed bowl divided into strips, and the horns mounted at the
sides of the brow.
3): Ekwesh warrior
Two ivory carvings from Enkomi, representing fighting scenes against a lion and a gryphon, show warriors protected
by corselets made with inverted-V bands of some organic material. Similar ‘soft armour’ is also apparently worn by
many of the Sea Peoples warriors represented in the Medinet Habu reliefs.
4): Alashiyan Ekwesh warrior
This foot-soldier, copied from the same ivory box as D2, is armed with both a dagger and a battle-axe. He wears the
kilt, kiton and ‘feathered’ headgear typical of depictions of the Sea Peoples. The headdress in this Cypriot context
confirms the Aegean origins of similar warriors represented in the Medinet Habu reliefs.
5. THE FALL OF THE HITTITE EMPIRE, c.1200–1180 BC
1): Lukka prince
The lavish equipment of this Sea Peoples leader is strongly Aegean in fashion, especially his plate bronze armour. Note
his long, heavy ash spear, as described in Homer’s Iliad for the Lukka leader Sarpedons. The description of his shield
(Iliad, XII, 295) recalls the kind of shield visible in the Egyptian iconography: ‘Holding his round shield before him,
bronze hammered by the smith and lined with ox-hides stitched with gold around the rim...’.
2): Weshesh warrior
Note again the ‘tiara’ helmet in bronze with leather (?) ‘plumes’. The headband is in two rows, the upper decorated
with a line of bosses and the lower with dots and pieces of coloured glass; the chinstrap is well detailed in the Egyptian
sources. The bronze ‘lobster-type’ cuirass is formed with an upper breast protector, and below this bands of inverted-
V shape over the torso. The rounded, embossed shoulder-guards support two protective strips for the upper arms, as in
the specimens from Thebes. Below the cuirass he wears a knee-length kilt. This warrior is holding the tall bronze
helmet of the fallen Hittite officer, E4.
3): Tjekker warlord
A bearded individual in the Medinet Habu reliefs is identified as a Tjekker chief. He wears a strange cap which,
though uncrested, is reminiscent of some of the late Achaean helmets depicted on pottery, e.g. on side B of the famous
‘Warriors Vase’ from Mycenae. Note the use of two javelins, well attested by the Egyptian representations and by late
4): Hittite commander of the Tuhuyeru
This fallen Hittite leader is copied from warriors depicted in the reliefs of Yazilikaya. The scimitar-like single-edged
sword for which he is grasping in vain is copied from a specimen of 1307–1275 BC, about 60cm (23.62in) long and
considered to be of Hittite origin. It bears the incised name of the Assyrian King Adad-Nirari, a contemporary of
Muwatalli II; its hilt was furnished with a flange for the attachment of the ivory grips.
6. THE ISLAND CONSPIRACY: ‘WAR OF THE EIGHTH YEAR’, 1191/1178 BC
1): Peleset leader
One of the Peleset prisoners in the Medinet Habu reliefs seems to be a leader wearing a bronze helmet similar to a
specimen from Crete; worn over an internal straw headpiece, this is about 16cm (6.30in) high, and decorated with 19
rows of embossing. From the top emerges a ‘feathered’ crest which we interpret as leather strips painted scarlet. The
warrior wears a to-ra-ka cuirass in embossed bronze above bands of padded linen or other organic material. This
method of wearing the naked sword slung on the breast is typical of some Aegean and Cypriot representations. An
important sign of his rank is the trident-spear, symbol of dominion over the sea in reference to the god Po-se-i-ta-wo
(Poseidon); this example is taken from a 12th-century BC find at the Achaean settlement of Hala Sultan Tekke in
Cyprus. Similar tridents continued to be symbols of command in the nearby later Philistine culture of present-day Israel,
and among the Sardinians (sculpture from Nurdole di Orani) and Etruscans (bronze specimen from Vetulonia).
2): Sherden leader
This chief of the ‘Sea Sherden’, copied from the Medinet Habu sea-battle relief, wears a helmet of a type also visible
on a statuette from Cyprus, in bronze with a central disc and two ivory side-horns. His to-ra-ka is entirely of
embossed bronze, again with a breastplate above inverted-V bands. The gold pectoral medallion and the two bronze
bracelets are no doubt signs of status.
3): Shekelesh leader
Again from the Medinet Habu representations, he wears a plain, low-profile cap presumably of hardened leather. His
leather or fabric body armour shows eight bands in alternating colours; this type of protection was probably fastened
down the back. His typical Near Eastern ‘sickle sword’ is a specimen from Gezer, entirely in bronze and 70cm
(27.56in) in length. Prisoners identified as Tjekker in the Medinet Habu reliefs are characterized by a medallion on the
chest; this is also associated with the Shekelesh, and might have been distinctive of these ethnic groups.
7. MERCENARIES DEFEATING LIBYANS
Of particular importance among the reliefs at Medinet Habu is one depicting a mixed group of Sea Peoples
mercenaries among Egyptian forces who are fiercely slaughtering Libyans – either in Ramesses III’s Year 8, or
perhaps in his subsequent campaign of Year 11? They include Sherden wearing helmets topped with the disc-andhorns
(1 & 4); and probably Peleset or Denyen/Danuna with their ‘feather’-topped helmets (2 & 3). These ‘tiara’
headpieces had various degrees of face and neck protection, here probably made of leather scales. In the original relief
from which these warriors are copied, details remain of round shields with small metal studs; these are similar to
shields attested in some Late Bronze Age Achaean graves and represented on LHIIIC pottery. The mercenaries’
weapons are iron-headed spears and bronze swords. The basic garment of Labu warriors (5) was just a phallus-sheath
of leather attached to a waist belt, but cloaks were worn that passed under the left arm and were tied up on the right
shoulder. These might be made of bull-hide, or (perhaps in the case of leaders) from the pelts of animals such as
giraffe or lion. The feather plume worn in the hair was considered important, and indicated different tribes and a man’s
status within them. The Libyans often decorated their bodies with tattoos or painting.
8. SEA PEOPLES IN SARDINIA, c.1100 BC
1): Sherden warrior
This figure, copied from a Sardinian statuette, has a horned helmet with a median ridge rising in two peaks, a diademshaped
bronze headband, and leather face protection here hanging loose. His padded corselet, made of some organic
material, is composed of vertical strips with two large shoulder-guards recalling an Aegean type of body armour, with
bronze tassets resembling Hellenic types. He carries a small buckler, and a long thrusting-sword with a curved hilt.
2): Peleset warrior
Here we choose to reconstruct the bronze ‘tiara’ helmet with actual feather plumes. The Aegean-style armour may
attest the contemporary presence on this western Mediterranean island of different groups of Sea Peoples. The leather
cuirass is reinforced with metal bosses, and has large shoulder- and collar-pieces as additional protection. Like his
Aegean ancestors, this man is wearing short coloured trousers. Note his long sword, from Decimo Putzu; the weapons
found in the cave grave near St Iroxi have a triangular blade with double middle ribs, giving a precise comparison with
blades found in the area of El-Argar. The hilt, of some organic material, was fixed by rivets.
3): Sardinian (Sardian) woman
Her colourful dress, typically Aegean in style, is copied from a bronze statuette from Teti-Albini near Nuoro. In the
background is a masonry-built nuraghe tower of the type found in Sardinia.