Jericho PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
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The Oldest City
Archaeological Debate
Mount of Temptation
2nd TestamentCity
Jericho Road

Joshua's Jericho? 

A new culture springs up abruptly at Jericho in the first part of the second millennium BC. This is the time when the horse is domesticated, allowing for widespread trade and warfare. Accordingly, the many finds from Jericho's graves show an Egyptian connection.

Since we are deep in the Dead Sea Transform, the area is subject to earthquake. At some stage, around the 17th century BC, a gas arose and destroyed decay-causing bacteria in one of the family graves. Some organic materials survived, including wooden furniture and boxes. (The contents of the grave have been moved to the Rockefeller Museum, where they are displayed as found.) The style seems very similar to that of Egypt, though simpler.

It was a time when people from this part of the Levant were settling in the Nile delta. They eventually took it over -- and were dubbed by the Egyptians "Hyksos," foreign rulers. Hundreds of "Hyksos scarabs" were also found in the Jericho graves.

The city of this time included between ten and twelve acres, though a large part consisted of ramparts. Its wall extended eastward (beyond the modern road) to include the spring. (A section of the tell was removed to construct the reservoir and the road.) Because of the new technology of war (horses and chariots), this wall was also more massive than earlier ones. Thanks to a recent excavation, we can view it today on the south side of the tell, as well as the north. Its outermost section is a retaining wall of large stones rising about fifteen feet. Then comes a glacis , sloping up at 35 degrees, to a line about 30 feet above the top of the outer wall. Upon this bulwark stood yet another wall, 16 feet thick and of undetermined height (for only the stone foundations remain). The whole complex was 68 feet thick. It must have made an impression.


According to Kenyon, this city was destroyed (along with many others in the country) when the Egyptians established control in Canaan after driving out the Hyksos -- an event usually dated to 1550 BC, long before the time of Joshua. She finds no city at Jericho again until the 11th century, well after the time of Joshua.

In the early eighties, a few years after Kenyon's death, her detailed reports were published. Bryant G. Wood took a new look at her findings and re-evaluated them in the Biblical Archaeology Review (March-April 1990). The city with the impressive ramparts, he holds, endured all through the Middle Bronze Age (2100-1550 BC) and was destroyed in a period called Late Bronze IIA: about 1400 BC.

Wood's revision caused a stir, because it appeared to bring the city of massive walls two centuries closer to Joshua and the Israelites -- indeed, to the date that a chronology based purely on the Bible would suggest. Yet most archaeologists do not accept Wood's re-dating. Apart from that, they discern no trace of Israel in the land as early as 1400 BC. To this debate we now turn.