The decline of the large population centers around the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age has been associated with a set of large earthquakes ("earthquake storm") occurring between 1300 BCE and 1150 BCE (e.g., late Minoan Crete Earthquakes). What evidence is there of such events? How can they explain the collapse of these civilizations?
Nur & Cline (2000) constructed a map of sites destroyed in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean region during the years 1225–1175 BCE. They also provided a map of earthquakes of magnitude above 6.5 that were measured during the XX century. They claimed that "virtually all of these Late Bronze Age sites lie within the affected (“high-shaking”) areas". They also showed evidence of earthquake damage in many of the main cities of the area and point out that:
While such a ‘‘storm’’ is unlikely to have been the sole cause of the end of the Late Bronze Age in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, it may have interacted with the other forces at work in these areas c. 1200 BCE
The idea of an "earthquake storm" has been around at least since 1970. Ambraseys (1970) describe multiple "earthquake sequences" lasting around 40-50 years with "quiet periods of more than a century in a nearby fault system (the Anatolian fault zone).
In a study preceding the Nur & Cline work, Nur (1998) provided a possible explanation to connect earthquake damage with civilization collapse:
The earthquake in this ca. 50 year long storm could have render many of the urban centers militarily vulnerable, thus inviting attacks not by powerful, distant Sea People, but by opportunistic indigenous or neighboring populations. These attack might have led in turn to the political and social collapse of the centres, followed by a dark age of recovery and rebuilding often lasting a few hundred years.
They also provide an example from the Old Testament: Jericho, that was attack by invaders after the city walls collapse.
A simple explanation of the potential set of events is given in this video.