Jericho is considered one of the oldest cities in the world. It was a mighty fenced city in the midst of a vast grove of palm trees, in the plain of Jordan, six miles north of the Dead Sea. Jericho is also known as "The Date City" or "The City of Palm Trees" because no matter whether you walk or drive through the desert, you inevitably come across its beautiful fertile green oasis and wonderful fragrance.

BACKGROUND

Jericho is thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, dating back nearly 10,000 years. Located beyond the northern portion of the Dead Sea (one of the lowest place on Earth), Jericho is also about the lowest city on earth. It is nearly 800 feet below sea level. The mountains between Jericho and Jerusalem, capture water far above Jericho, and then carry the water through an underground spring called the 'Ein es-Sultan or Elisha's Fountain. The fresh water then spews out in this desert oasis and is used for irrigation. Even though the surrounding plains are nearly waste and desolate, the abundance of fresh water from this spring, makes the soil of Jericho unsurpassed in fertility. The city was celebrated for the numerous palm trees that adorned its landscapes. All these factors made Jericho a rich and flourishing town having considerable trade.


At the height of its existence, Jericho was known as the most important city in the Jordan valley and was the strongest fortress in all the land of Canaan. An important east-west road lay near the city making Jericho a strategic entrance point from Transjordan into the highlands of Judah. It was indeed the key to Western Palestine. The city is most famous for being conquered by Joshua and the Israelites, after they were led by God through the wilderness from Egypt.
 


Jericho was built atop a great mound that was nearly 70 feet high. The ancient tell is a testament to this site. In antiquity, instead of tearing down an old city, people would just build a new one on top of it. They would keep building new cities in this manner for many generations, thus forming an artificial hill or tell. Archaeologists found a tower standing 25 feet high at the tell in Jericho. The entire city seems to have been fortified by various sets of walls. Archaeological evidence suggests that at differing times in history one set of walls would be built atop a previous set.
In the Hebrew scriptures, there is such an account of the Israelites defeating the city of Jericho when they came into the promised land, after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. According to the book of Joshua, God gave Jericho "into their hands". The city was "accursed" and therefore, all the inhabitants and all the spoils of the city were to be destroyed. "Only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron," were reserved and "put into the treasury of the house of Jehovah."

The Bible says the Israelites marched around the city for 7 days. On the last day, the priests blew their trumpets, the people shouted and the walls fell. Only Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute and her house survived, because she helped 2 Israelite spies.

Moreover, Jesus is said to have visited Jericho on his last journey to Jerusalem. Here Jesus gave sight to two blind men, and brought salvation to the house of Zacchaeus, the publican. Zacchaeus was a man of short stature, who had climbed up into a sycamore tree so that he could see Jesus when he walked by. Zacchaeus invited Jesus to spend the night at his home, after which Jesus blessed him and forgave him for all his sins.

THE EXCAVATIONS

Captain Warren of the British archaeological society, was in charge of the first excavation at Jericho that took place as long ago as 1867. He discovered a shaft that was nearly 20 feet deep with some charred timber in it. Warren did not pay too much attention to it at the time, and remarked that there was nothing more to be learnt from Jericho. However, at this time archaeological technique was still in its infancy then, and each successive expedition to the site has revealed that Warren's enigmatic shaft, was in fact part of a giant wall that fortified the city.

Between 1908 and 1911, a German team carried out another major excavation of the site at Jericho. Unfortunately, in their time, the dating of pottery was far from accurate. As a result, they ascribed erroneous dates to various buildings. In 1936, Professor Garstang managed to date pottery fairly correctly and managed to shed more light on the time-line of Jericho. In the 1950's, Kathleen Kenyon re-excavated the site and found piles of mud bricks at the base of the mound that the city was built on. She determined that they were part of the city wall, which had collapsed when the city was destroyed. By 1960, it became apparent that revision might be necessary for some of Garstang's and Kenyon's findings.

Is the Bible accurate concerning the destruction of the walls of Jericho? No one will ever truly know for sure. Historical perspective is very subjective. Current philosophy influences what is being studied and how it is being studied. For example, there exists an innate relationship between Near Eastern archaeologists and those who seek to prove the literal truth of the Bible. Evidence can be marshaled to "prove" almost anything. Thus, the problems of subjectivity, objectivity and the gradual accumulation of knowledge, plague the science of archaeology.

The main goal of this web-site is to force one to realize that the interpretation of an excavation is partially formed by the archaeologist's own world-view. Both Garstang and Kenyon exemplify this in their excavations at Jericho.