Science, Tech, Math › Social Sciences Jericho (Palestine) - Archaeology of the Ancient City The Archaeology of the Ancient City of Jericho Share Flipboard Email Print Plastered skulls recovered from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B levels of Jericho, made between 7,300–6,000 B.C.E. Nathan Benn / Corbis Historical / Gerry Images Social Sciences Archaeology Ancient Civilizations Basics Excavations History of Animal and Plant Domestication Psychology Sociology Economics Environment Ergonomics Maritime By K. Kris Hirst Archaeology Expert M.A., Anthropology, University of Iowa B.Ed., Illinois State University K. Kris Hirst is an archaeologist with 30 years of field experience. Her work has appeared in scholarly publications such as Archaeology Online and Science. our editorial process Twitter Twitter K. Kris Hirst Updated February 09, 2019 Jericho, also known as Ariha ("fragrant" in Arabic) or Tulul Abu el Alayiq ("City of Palms"), is the name of a Bronze Age city mentioned in the book of Joshua and other parts of both the Old and New Testaments of the Judeo-Christian bible. The ruins of the ancient city are believed to be part of the archaeological site called Tel es-Sultan, an enormous mound or tell situated on an ancient lakebed north of the Dead Sea in what is today the West Bank of Palestine. The oval mound stands 8-12 meters (26-40 feet) tall above the lake bed, a height made up of the ruins of 8,000 years of building and rebuilding in the same place. Tell es-Sultan covers an area of about 2.5 hectares (6 acres). The settlement that the tell represents is one of oldest more or less continuously occupied locations on our planet and it is currently over 200 m (650 ft) below modern sea level. Jericho Chronology The most widely known occupation at Jericho is, of course, the Judeo-Christian Late Bronze Age one–Jericho is mentioned in both old and new Testaments of the Bible. However, the oldest occupations at Jericho are in fact much earlier than that, dating to the Natufian period (ca. 12,000–11,300 years before the present), and it has a substantial Pre-Pottery Neolithic (8,300–7,300 B.C.E.) occupation as well. Natufian or Epipaleolihic (10,800–8,500 B.C.E.) Sedentary hunter-gatherers living in large semi-subterranean oval stone structuresPre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) (8,500–7300 B.C.E.) Oval semi-subterranean dwellings in a village, engaging in long-distance trade and growing domesticated crops, construction of the first tower (4 m tall), and a defensive perimeter wallPre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) (7,300–6,000 B.C.E.) Rectangular houses with red- and white-painted floors, with caches of plastered human skullsEarly Neolithic (6,000–5,000 B.C.E.) Jericho was mostly abandoned at this timeMiddle/Late Neolithic (5,000–3,100 B.C.E.) Very minimal occupationEarly / Middle Bronze Age (3,100–1,800 B.C.E.) Extensive defensive walls constructed, rectangular towers 15-20 m long and 6-8 m tall and extensive cemeteries, Jericho destroyed circa 3300 cal BPLate Bronze Age (1,800–1,400 B.C.E.) Limited settlementAfter the Late Bronze Age, Jericho was no longer much of a center, but continued to be occupied on a small scale, and ruled by Babylonians, Persian Empire, the Roman Empire, Byzantine and Ottoman Empire up until the present day Tower of Jericho Jericho's tower is perhaps its defining piece of architecture. British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon discovered the monumental stone tower during her excavations at Tel es-Sultan in the 1950s. The tower is on the western fringe of the PPNA settlement separated from it by a ditch and a wall; Kenyon suggested it was part of the town's defenses. Since Kenyon's day, Israeli archaeologist Ran Barkai and colleagues have suggested the tower was an ancient astronomical observatory, one of the earliest on record. Jericho's tower is made of concentric rows of undressed stone and it was built and used between 8,300–7,800 B.C.E. It is slightly conical in form, with a base diameter of roughly 9 m (30 ft) and a top diameter of about 7 m (23 ft). It rises to a height of 8.25 m (27 ft) from its base. When excavated, parts of the tower were covered with a layer of mud plaster, and during its use, it may have been completely covered in plaster. At the base of the tower, a short passageway leads to an enclosed stairway which was also heavily plastered. A group of burials was found in the passage, but they were placed there after the building's use. An Astronomical Purpose? The internal stairway has at least 20 stairs made up of smoothly hammer-dressed stone blocks, each over 75 centimeters (30 inches) in width, the entire width of the passageway. The stair treads are between 15-20 cm (6-8 in) deep and each step rises nearly 39 cm (15 in) each. The slope of the stairs is about 1.8 (~60 degrees), much steeper than modern stairways which normally range between .5-.6 (30 degrees). The stairway is roofed by massive sloping stone blocks measuring 1x1 m (3.3x3.3 ft). The stairs at the top of the tower open up facing to the east, and on what would have been midsummer solstice 10,000 years ago, the viewer could watch the sunset above Mt. Quruntul in the Judean mountains. The peak of Mount Quruntul rose 350 m (1150 ft) higher than Jericho, and it is conical in shape. Barkai and Liran (2008) have argued that the conical shape of the tower was built to mimic that of Quruntul. Plastered Skulls Ten plastered human skulls have been recovered from the Neolithic layers at Jericho. Kenyon discovered seven in a cache deposited during the middle PPNB period, below a plastered floor. Two others were found in 1956, and a 10th in 1981. Plastering human skulls is a ritual ancestor worship practice known from other middle PPNB sites such as 'Ain Ghazal and Kfar HaHoresh. After the individual (both males and females) died, the skull was removed and buried. Later, the PPNB shamans unearthed the skulls and modeled facial features such as chin, ears, and eyelids in plaster and placing shells in the eye sockets. Some of the skulls have as many as four layers of plaster, leaving the upper skull bare. Jericho and Archaeology Tel es-Sultan was first recognized as the biblical site of Jericho a very long time ago indeed, with the earliest mention from the 4th century C.E. anonymous Christian traveler known as the "Pilgrim of Bordeaux." Among the archaeologists who have worked at Jericho are Carl Watzinger, Ernst Sellin, Kathleen Kenyon, and John Garstang. Kenyon excavated at Jericho between 1952 and 1958 and is widely credited with introducing scientific excavation methodologies into biblical archaeology. Sources Barkai R, and Liran R. 2008. Midsummer Sunset at Neolithic Jericho. Time and Mind 1(3):273-283.Finlayson B, Mithen SJ, Najjar M, Smith S, Maricevic D, Pankhurst N, and Yeomans L. 2011. Architecture, sedentism, and social complexity at Pre-Pottery Neolithic A WF16, Southern Jordan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(20):8183-8188.Fletcher A, Pearson J, and Ambers J. 2008. The Manipulation of Social and Physical Identity in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic: Radiographic Evidence for Cranial Modification at Jericho and its Implications for the Plastering of Skulls. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 18(3):309–325.Kenyon KM. 1967. Jericho. Archaeology 20(4):268-275.Kuijt I. 2008. The regeneration of life: Neolithic structures of symbolic remembering and forgetting. Current Anthropology 49(2):171-197.Scheffler E. 2013. Jericho: From archaeology challenging the canon to HTS Theological Studies 69:1-10.searching for the meaning(s) of myth(s).