Ancient Jericho

This ancient Palestinian settlement was first occupied about 8000 B.C., and was an impressive walled city two thousand years later. It was important in antiquity because it stood at the intersection of two ancient highways, overlooking the pass from the plain up to Jerusalem. After Joshua’s victory over Jericho (John. 6), the city was rebuilt as a village, but only became important again by New Testament times. It was in this elegant city that Jesus healed a blind man (Luke 18:35-43) and dined with the wealthy Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).

There are three related sites in the Jordan valley known as Jericho. The Old Testament city, Tell es-Sultan, is about 1-1/2 miles North West of the modern city (er-Riha), and is located beside Elisha’s Fountain (II Kings 1:19-22), the only perennial spring in the area. New Testament Jericho was situated almost a mile South of its Old Testament counterpart.

Sir Charles Warren sank an unproductive shaft at Tell es-Sultan in 1868, but better results were obtained by archaeologists Sellin and Watzinger (1907-09), Garstang’s excavation of the eight-acre mound (1930-36) led him to identify four successive cities of Jericho dating from c. 3000 B.C. He concluded that Jericho had collapsed under Joshua c. 1400 B.C. More precise excavating techniques employed by Kathleen Kenyon (1952-58) have revised Garstang’s conclusions radically. The city walls he attributed to the Late Bronze Age (Joshua’s time) actually belonged to the Early Bronze Age, more than a thousand years before Joshua’s period.

Kenyon was unable to recover any significant traces of the Jericho that Joshua attacked, due to severe erosion at the site, but she succeeded in tracing the occupational history of the mound back to c. 9000 B.C. A thousand years later Jericho was a town surrounded by a stone wall that was surmounted by at least one massive tower to guard the ten-acre site.

Middle Bronze Age (c. 1900-1550 B.C.) tombs have preserved a remarkable collection of pottery, metal daggers, ornaments, wooden stools, tables, beds, jewelry, inlaid trinket boxes, and Egyptian scarabs. Excavations at er-Riha have uncovered the winter capital of Herod the Great and Archelaus, with its citadel, courts, villas, palace, public buildings, and large private homes.