Jericho Archaeology – The Oldest and Lowest City in the World
Jericho is known as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Jericho also claims the record for the lowest city in the world at over 800 feet (250 meters) below sea level. The name of the city is probably derived from an early Semitic word “Yareah” for moon, because the city was a center for the worship of moon gods. In the Middle Bronze Age, the city was inhabited by Canaanites, it expanded, and a wall was constructed around it. This wall, which lasted into the Late Bronze Age, was partially destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua.
Jericho Archaeology – The Ancient Walls
The ancient city of Jericho, located at Tel es-Sultan, has been excavated by 4 different teams, intermittently spanning over 100 years. Jericho City IV is the name of the particular stratigraphic layer of the tel (mound) that has been suggested as the city of Jericho in the book of Joshua.
During the Late Bronze Age, Jericho may have been a Hyksos city, but undoubtedly that of Canaanites. This layer of the city was found to be extensively fortified with both stone and mud brick walls. A spring, named ‘ain es-Sultan, was located on the east side of the city and within the walls of the Bronze Age city. On top of the stone retaining wall, originally measuring approximately 12-15 feet high (4-5 meters), an upper parapet wall of mud brick (estimated at 4.5 ft/1.5m thick and 12 ft/4m tall was situated.
According to the German excavations of Jericho at the beginning of the 20th century, immediately inside the walls, houses of mud brick were built, some being integrated into both of the mud brick walls. This is reminiscent of the episode with Rahab, in which she lowers the two Israelite spies out of her window on the city wall.
Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall. (Joshua 2:15)
Jericho Archaeology – The Record of Joshua
Excavations at Jericho showed the fallen and piled red mud brick laying against the lower stone retaining wall, forming a ramp up into the city out of the fallen part of the wall. This is exactly what one would expect to find after reading the Joshua 6 narrative about the wall falling down and the people going up into the city.
So the people shouted, and they blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down under itself, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:20)
The book of Joshua also records that the siege of Jericho was short and the Israelites did not loot the city. Excavations revealed that there was a short siege, that the walls fell outward suddenly instead of being slowly battered, and the city’s grain stores were not plundered, as many storage jars in the city were found full of grain. Finally, Joshua says that the Israelites burned Jericho, and excavators have found abundant evidence of this city being destroyed by a huge and purposeful fire, with a layer of ash over 3 feet (1 meter) thick. There are debates about the date of the habitation and destruction of Jericho. However, evidence from pottery, especially an imported type called Cypriot ware, and Egyptian scarab seals, demonstrate the city was inhabited in the 15th century B.C., destroyed by fire, and then uninhabited for a while.
Jericho Archaeology – The Time of Jesus
King Herod the Great also built at Jericho, including a hippodrome theatre, aqueducts, and a palace, remnants of which can still be seen. This was also the site where Jesus healed the blind Bartimaeus and then meets Zaccheus (Luke 18:35-19:10; Mark 10:46), and Jesus would have seen, perhaps even walked through, Herod’s buildings.
Compliments of Titus and our friends at Drive Thru History. Copyright 2010 – All rights reserved in the original.
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