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  • Writer's pictureRebekah Gyger

Archaeological Evidence: Jericho

How archaeology has uncovered the ancient walls of Jericho.



The first recorded excavations of ancient Jericho were conducted by C. Warren in 1873 (Bar-Yosef) in what is now called Tell es-Sultan, located just outside modern Jericho. The site has been the location of numerous excavations since then, many of which have focused on the walls and what they can tell us about the city's history. Which is a story filled with the repeated destruction of Jericho.


Image from “Biblical Sites: Three Ways to Date the Destruction at Jericho" cited in Bibliography.


There were various causes for the many destructions of Jericho's walls. The first few times, before Jericho rose in prominence as a city of trade, appear to be due to earthquakes in the region. By 2700 bc, the inhabitants had developed building strategies that were meant to not only reinforce the walls but also give them greater flexibility (Nigro, 2014). Advances that would have given the inhabitants great confidence in the strength of their walls.


But that could not stop invasion.


Throughout the Early Bronze II age, even before the city's reconstruction in 2700 bc, Jericho's prosperity drew a number of invading forces (Nigro, 2014). Eventually, the city would be completely destroyed once more by an invading army. This time, however, the entire city was set aflame, and would not be rebuilt for many years after.

Biblical correlation

It is easy to see how this latest destruction of Jericho aligns with scripture, particularly noting that the city was set aflame. The archaeological evidence for this is in the layer of ash which coats the entire site at that destruction level. The problem with this evidence lies in its dating, with archaeologists disagreeing on exactly when the city was destroyed. The exact date of the city's destruction for many would be seen to greatly affect how the story of Jericho can be understood in the Biblical narrative, whether it could be interpreted as historically accurate versus religiously symbolic.


This discussion of dating the destruction of Jericho is far more than can be addressed by my limited study of the site. However, if you would like further reading on just how archaeologists have tried to do so, you can read this article, by someone who advocates for a Late Bronze Age destruction ca. 1400 bc, which matches with Biblical scholars dating of the events in the book if Joshua (Windle, 2019).


Sources Cited: Bar-Yosef, O. 1986. The Walls of Jericho: An Alternative Interpretation. Current Anthropology 27, no. 2: 157-162. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12211567

Nigro, Lorenzo (2014). "The Archaeology of Collapse and Resilience: Tell es-Sultan/ancient Jericho as a Case Study". Rome "la Sapienza" Studies on the Archaeology of Palestine & Transjordan.

Both above sites were accessed on Jan. 19th, 2023

Windle, Bryan. “Biblical Sites: Three Ways to Date the Destruction at Jericho.” Bible Archaeology Report, 3 June 2020, https://biblearchaeologyreport.com/2019/05/17/biblical-places-three-ways-to-date-the-destruction-at-jericho/.



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