Sea Peoples -“Are we related?”

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 A non-expert theory by István Nagy

A few years ago I visited the British Museum and I came across the name of Sea Peoples. As there were most of the tribe names similar to modern Hungarian geographical, tribe or family names I got interested. Browsing the internet, Wikipedia and reading couple of books about them I felt that most of the trials to find an origin of them weren’t kosher. However on Wiki I found under the” Sea Peoples – Invader hypothesis” the following sentences:

Invader hypothesis

The term invasion is used generally in the literature concerning the period to mean the documented attacks implying a local or unspecified origin. An origin outside the Aegean also has been proposed, as in this example by Michael Grant: “There was a gigantic series of migratory waves, extending all the way from the Danube valley to the plains of China.

Such a comprehensive movement is associated with more than one people or culture; instead, a “disturbance” happens, according to Finley:

A large-scale movement of people is indicated … the original centre of disturbance was in the Carpatho-Danubian region of Europe. … It appears … to have been … pushing in different directions at different times.”

So, I started to put things together on a comprehensive way and I ended up with the thoughts below. Instead of an introduction on the historical background I copied here the photo I took in BM on Sea Peoples description, and I refer the reader to Wikipedia – Sea Peoples.

  1. It is pretty much overlooked by many historians that Rameses III donated the title to himself “ruler of the Nine bows” after defeating the Sea Peoples. The explanation for this might be the following: it is known that, Oguz or Ogur nations divide their tribes by arrows (the word oguz comes from ok (arrow) with z as suffix). The Bulgarian Turkic word ogur developed from oguz. It is important to note that the word Onogur (the name of one of the ancestor nations of modern Hungarians) means ten tribe (ten arrows), while the tribe name Kutrigur means Nine arrows.

     2.   Modified table after David Rohl: The lords of Avaris (2007, Century) to compare the tribe names of the Sea  Peoples found in ancient descriptions to modern names and Hungarian geographical, tribe and family names

Egyptian Ancient Greek Hittite Modern Name Hungarian
Peleset Pelastoi   Philistines PalócPalástiJász
SekeleshShakalasha Sikeloi   Cilicians Sicilians Székely/Székely
Taruisha Tursenoi Taruisha   Thurzó
Shardana Sardanoi   Lydians from Sardis, Later Sardinians Sárd(i)KülsősárdBelsősárdKun,Kumán?
Weshesh, Wasesha Ashiyoi Ashuwa Asians VasVasas
Khara Karioi Karkisha Carians KerkaKerkáskápolnaKarka
Lukka Likkioi Lukka Lycians Luka(fa)
Denyen, Danuna Danaoi   Danaans DunaDinya
Tjekker Teukeroi   Teukrians Teker(es)
Ekwesh Akawasha Akhaiwoi Akhiyawa Acheans IkvaEkevas?
Dardany Dardanoi   Dardanians Dárda(i)

In Hungarian “s” is equivalent with English “sh”.

The Hungarian names listed in the table either reflect tribe names, family names or geographical names. Interestingly the geographical names are concentrated in a relatively small territory of West Hungary. These names can be derived from river names like Danube (Duna) Kerka, Ikva, Tekeres and Rába and the mountain Vas (after which the county is named). For Lukka and Shardana I found only village names like Lukafa and Külső- and Belsősárd (Outer-  and  Innersard) on the banks of river Kerka close to Lenti. The “fa” in Lukafa means tree or village an extent for many other villages of the region. The extension –as,  -es,- os at the end of noun transforms a word to adjective, like in English for instance mud and muddy (in Hungarian sár and sáros), while a “d” at the end of a noun is a locativus expressing that it is somebody’s territory.  It is also well known that nomadic nations or tribes of the steppe are also distinguished by river names, where they live. The most well known example is the Kozaks of the Don. It is tempting to speculate that Wheshes were named after the mountain Vas, the Karkisha after the river Kerka, the Ekwesh after the river Ikva, the Tjekker after the river Tekeres, the Danuna after the Duna (Danube) and the Labu (Rebu) after the river Rába (I refer the reader to the slide show inserted below).

Seapeoples map

I do not want to write too much about the Sekelesh (Székelys) as there is a pretty exhaustive chapter about them in Wikipedia. It is an anthropological/historical fact that they lived on the territory of Moson-Danube until the Hungarian king let them move to their recent location in Transylvania. Besides, there is a saga that Székely’s lived in nowadays Őrség (in close vicinity of river Kerka).

The Peleset (Philistei) are the most well known tribe of the Sea Peoples. The Hungarian equivalent of this tribe might be the Palóc. Here I cite from the book” Bridges on the Danube” by László Rásonyi to give some introduction to the origin of this name: “In the year of 1399 Pope Bonifac IV mentions “Cumani, Philistei, Tartari” and still in 1428 Michael de Katha is called as “universorum Cumanorum, Philisteorum necnon Tartarorum regalium judex” in context of tribes had moved to the Big Hungarian plain. From these texts now we are interested only in Philistei.  The name Philistei is the archaic name of nomadic tribes of alan/osset (Iranian) nations (in modern Hungarian they are called Jász). A small group of them moved together with the Cumani (Turkish type nomads) to the North part of the Hungarian plain maybe in the beginning of the 13th century.  Nowadays there is a group of people called Palóc in the vicinity of this region. The two names Palóc and Polovec should not be mixed. Polovec is the Russian name of the Cumani which comes from the Turkic name of this tribe (ku: pale, yellowish).  Interestingly another Turkic/Hungarian name for these people is “sári” (pale, yellowish) which might lead to the tribe sar(d) like nowadays Sari Uygurs “Yellow Yughurs” of Western China are distinguished from the rest of the Uygurs. There is vague information about the presence of Cumani on the Apennini peninsula in the time of Etruscans whom they helped in time of troubles. If we accept that Shar(den)s and Cumani are the names of the same nation than it is very likely that Cumani (sharden) were living on the island Sardinia. The connection between the Etruscans and Cumani can be enforced if we accept that the Etruscan city name Tarquinii equals the Turkish/Hungarian name Tárkány (meaning black smith). Other city names of the Bronze Age Mediterranean that might reflect Turkic/Ossetic inhabitants are Iassos (Jász- Philistei), Cumanea (Kuman, Sarden), Avaris (Avars). The personal name Akish (the name of the Philistine Lord of Gath) is very similar to the Hungarian name Akus (and still used nowadays as Ákos) can also be derived from Turkic Akish meaning invader. The other maybe authentic Philistine’s name is Padi. This can be compared to the Persian Padishah, Padshah, Padeshah, Badishah or Badshah (Persian پادشاه Pādeshāh) which is a superlative royal title, composed of the Persian pād “master” and the widespread shāh “king” (Wikipedia).

There are not too many words known that can be related to Sea Peoples therefore it is crucial to find meanings to them. The Sea peoples called their land troops as “teher” soldier. In Hungarian/Iranian word “teher” means load, which might indicate the logistic nature of the land troops. The world Karka is an ancient personal Hungarian name and it can be derived from Turkic language, meaning Corvus. Another explanation for Karkisha can be as follows: “They /the Hungarians/ have for their first chief the prince who comes by succession of Árpád’s family, and two others, the gylas and the karchas, who have the rank of judge; and each clan has a prince. The karchas Boultzous is the son of the karchas Kalis, and Kalis is a proper name, but karchas is a dignity, like gylas, which is superior to karchas. —Constantine Porphyrogenitus: De administrando imperio.”

Wheshesh (Vasas).  In Hungarian  ”vasas” means iron works or iron worker originating from the noun “vas” (iron). The Bible describes that the Philistines had monopoly in iron manufacturing therefore it might be an important point to notice. These people had known iron manufacturing and this might have been the secret of their military success over the Middle-East countries.

I believe it is important to mention that the Sea Peoples had a good relation to the Phoenicians. One of the outcomes of this relation might be the overtaking of the Phoenician alphabet which was adapted to their own language(s). “The Old Hungarian script (in Hungarian known as rovásírás, or székely rovásírás, székely-magyar rovás; for short also simply rovás “notch, score”) is an alphabetic writing system used by the Hungarians in the Middle -Ages. Because it is reminiscent of the runic alphabet, the Old Hungarian script has also popularly been called “Hungarian runes” or “Hungarian runic script”. The script is thought to be derived from the Old Turkic script, and probably first appeared during the 7th century. The Hungarian Runic script is not directly related to Germanic Runes: the only tie between them is that both derive from the Phoenician alphabet (if Old Turkic indeed does).  The Hungarians settled the Pannonian plain in 895. When the Kingdom of Hungary was established in AD 1000 and Christianity was adopted, the Latin alphabet was adopted and the script fell into disuse. In remote regions of Transylvania, however, the script remained in marginal use by the Székely Magyars at least into the 17th century, giving it the name “székely rovásírás”.  (

There is an old legend in Göcsej (a territory on the East bank of Kerka river) that the ancestors of the recent inhabitants were the Palóc, who inhabited the area already before the invasion of the Huns.  They greeted Attila as their relative and asked him to help them out to fight their restless neighbors. Interestingly, on the Western bank of Kerka lies Hetés, which word resembles to Hattusas the Hettita capitol. In the book “The Lords of Avaris” by David Rohl on page 406 there is a photograph on the chieftains of defeated Sea Peoples in a row: a Hettite, an Amorite, a Tjekker, a Shardana, a Sekelesh and a Teresh – supporting the connection of the Hungarian geological names and the Sea Peoples. Another photo from this book on page 448 shows a warrior among the Shardana with a clear Mongoloid face (in an unusual hat). These two observations reminds me to later large scale destruction of the” civilized world” by Attila the Hun, and Genghis khan, who were also masters of the steppe, and forced their captured enemies to fight for them (just like the “civilized world” forced the captured Barbarians) .

3. To summarize my thoughts:

  1. In this short review I tried to correlate the origin of Sea Peoples with Turkic, Ugric and Iranian tribes. I correlated the tribe names, personal names and sparse words used by the Sea Peoples to geographic names, personal names, tribe names and words of recent Hungary and Transylvania.  My linguistic and historical knowledge is limited but I think this theory makes at least as much sense (even if not more) than others.

    2.    I suggest taking into serious consideration that the Sea Peoples were a confederation of tribes living on  the  Eurasian steppe (including the Carpathian basin) like centuries later confederations ruled by Attila the Hun, or the Avar, Bulgarian, Magyar, Cuman, Mongol etc. confederations which included Turkic, Ugric, Slavic, Germanic, Iranian, etc. elements.

 Whether if they were originating from the Carpathian Basin, or they were settling there after their lost battles (or both) if at all, remains elusive.


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