The Sherden (also known as Serden or Shardana) are one of several groups of "Sea Peoples" who appear in fragmentary historical records (Egyptian inscriptions) for the Mediterranean region in the second millennium B.C.; little is known about them. On reliefs they are shown carrying a round shield and a long thrusting Naue II type sword. They are shown wearing a complicated armour corselet of overlapping bands of either leather or metal, and a horned helmet surmounted with a balled spike at the top. At Medinet Habu the corselet appears similar to that worn by the Philistines and is similar, though not identical, to that found in tomb 12 at Dendra where Mycenaean IIB-IIIA pottery dates it to the second half of the fifteenth century BCE. The Sherden sword, it has been suggested by archaeologists since James Henry Breasted, may have developed from an enlargement of European daggers, and been associated with the exploitation of Bohemian tin. Robert Drews has recently suggested that use of this weapon amongst groups of Sharden and Philistine mercenaries made them capable of withstanding attacks by chariotry, making them valuable allies in warfare.
Early mentions of the Sherden
The earliest mention of the people called Srdn-w, more usually called Sherden or Shardana, occurs in the Amarna Letters correspondence of Rib-Hadda, of Byblos, to Pharaoh Akhenaten, at about 1350 BCE. At this time, they already appear as sea raiders and mercenaries, prepared to offer their services to local employers.
Ramesses II (ruled 1279-1213 BCE) defeated them in his second year (1278 BCE) when they attempted to raid Egypt's coast, together with the Lukka (L'kkw, possibly the later Lycians) and the Šqrsšw (Shekelesh), in a sea battle off the Mediterranean coast. The pharaoh subsequently incorporated many of these warriors into his personal guard. An inscription by Ramesses II on a stele from Tanis which recorded the Sherden pirates' raid and subsequent defeat, speaks of the constant threat which they posed to Egypt's Mediterranean coasts:
the unruly Sherden whom no one had ever known how to combat, they came boldly sailing in their warships from the midst of the sea, none being able to withstand them.
After Ramesses II succeeded in defeating the invaders and capturing some of them, Sherden captives are depicted in this Pharaoh's bodyguard, where they are conspicuous by their helmets with horns with a ball projecting from the middle, their round shields and the great Naue II swords, with which they are depicted in inscriptions of the Battle with the Hittites at Kadesh. Ramesses tells us, in his Kadesh inscriptions, that he incorporated some of the Sherden into his own personal guard at the Battle of Kadesh.. Little more than a century later, many Sherden are found cultivating plots of their own; these are doubtless rewards given to them for their military services. There is also evidence of Sherden at Beth Shean, the Egyptian garrison in Canaan.
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