First, give yourself three minutes to read this article:

For hundreds of years, several civilizations flourished in the Eastern Mediterranean region. However, around the end of the twelfth century BCE almost all of these civilizations suddenly collapsed.  Historians call this event the Late Bronze Age Collapse. The suddenness and mysteriousness of this collapse have given rise to a few theories about what actually caused it.

One of the leading theories suggests that climate change was a significant factor in the collapse. It is possible that climate change caused a long period of drought and famine, which negatively affected agricultural production. This, coupled with earthquakes  and other natural disasters, could have led to widespread food shortages and migration away from impacted areas. The combination of all these factors may have weakened the  governments of the area, making them extremely vulnerable.

Another theory suggests that the collapse occurred when a group of seafaring pirates called the “Sea Peoples” invaded the region. The Sea Peoples came from outside of the Mediterranean and were known for their advanced sailing technology and military tactics, advantages which allowed them to raid and plunder coastal cities and settlements. The attacks of the Sea Peoples may have disrupted trade routes and slowly weakened the militaries of the local civilizations.  

A third theory suggests that the collapse was caused by the instability of the political and economic systems of all Late Bronze Age civilizations. Empires of the time were highly centralized and wealth and power were almost entirely in the hands of a few elites. This may have created social and economic inequalities that  eventually led to widespread dissatisfaction and rebellion. The inability of the governments of the time to deal with these factors may have ultimately led to their collapse.

Next, listen to the following lecture:


You have twenty minutes to answer the following question.  You can see to the article as you write your essay.  You may not listen to the lecture again.

Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they oppose specific points made in the reading passage.

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Sample Response

Here is a sample essay:

The article and the lecture are about the late Bronze Age Collapse. While the author of the reading presents three possible causes of this event, the lecturer believes that none of them explain why so many civilizations collapsed at that time.

First, the author argues that climate change caused drought and famine, which limited the amount of food that could be produced in the region. The article states that earthquakes and other natural disasters made these problems worse and caused food shortages and outward migration. The lecturer’s counterargument is that there is no evidence of environmental problems at that time, and that the climate was actually stable. Moreover, since the civilizations didn’t collapse at the exact same time a natural disaster could not have been the cause.

Secondly, the author argues that  invaders known as the “Sea Peoples” caused the collapse.  The article notes that they used their advanced technology and military tactics to attack coastal areas, which made the societies unstable. In contrast, the lecturer argues that while the Sea Peoples were fierce attackers, they weren’t coordinated and didn’t work together. As a result, local militaries could deal with their threat before they could destroy whole societies.

Finally, the article notes that the collapse occurred because the societies of the region were fundamentally unstable.  The author suggests that wealth and power in the civilizations were centralized in the hands of a few elites, which led to rebellion. However, the lecturer points out that almost all societies at that time were unstable, and they didn’t all collapse. As an example, he mentioned the Assyrian civilization which had similar characteristics at the same time, but still managed to thrive for centuries.

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