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JERICHO Part IV - The Archaeology

In 1907 Drs. Stellin and Watzinger began the first scientific excavation of Tell Es-Sultan (Jericho) which was first excavated in modern times by Warren in 1868. Although much was published just before the first world war especially about the walls that had been discovered, nothing else was done about the site until Professor Garstang of Liverpool University began extensive work there in 1930.

 

Tell Es-Sultan from the Air.
Tell Es-Sultan from the Air.
Dr Garstang had been Director of the Department of Antiquities in Palestine which had been set up under the British mandate and he occupied this post from 1920-26 so that he already had considerable knowledge of the area when he started his excavations four years later.

During his directorship he had walked the precise itinerary of the army of Joshua and by this means had identified the sites of many of the cities, the exact location of which had been long forgotten.

Dr. Garstang and his assistants examined over 100,000 potsherds from the site of Jericho and from these he dated the destruction of the city to the middle of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1400 BC in conventional dating) which was in contradiction to the generally accepted date of the Exodus and conquest which was then considered to be at the time of the 19th Dynasty of Egypt some 200 years later. (Of course this was in complete contradiction to the Biblical Account which put the Exodus 480 years before the founding of the Temple of Solomon, i.e. around 1,450 BC ).

It was suggested that either his classification of the pottery was in error or that there had been two Exodus events. Other suggestions included the possibility that not all the Children of Israel had gone into captivity. Any an all excuses were put forward to explain his findings.

To the west of the main city which occupied only 12 acres, Garstang found a complete necropolis which had remained completely unplundered. Amongst the findings were 80 scarabs which bore cartouches of Egyptian Kings the latest of whom was Amenhotep III (1413-1377 BC in conventional dating). There was no evidence of burials after that date. This inspired one of the financiers of the dig, Sir Charles Marston to write that Jericho fell in the reign of Amenhotep III.

There is now so much controversy over what Garstang actually found that it is safer from now on to use only his words, so we will quote extensively from an article he wrote after four years of digging. ( Jericho and the Biblical Story in "Wonders of the Past" 1937).

It must be remembered that Professor Dr. John Garstang M.A., D.Sc., Hon LLD., F.S.A. was no amateur dilettante, but one of the most respected scholars of his day. He wrote:-

"Four main epochs in its occupation (referring to Jericho) are attested by that number of separate and successive periods of fortification.........Even the rampart which was constructed in the early bronze age can only be traced in intervals in deep soundings at a depth of about 20ft..........The walls were Babylonian in style.........This period of occupation is to be assigned to the last centuries the third millennium BC say 2300-2000 BC and corresponds therefore with the first Semitic Dynasty of Babylon, the remote age of Hammurabi and Abraham (sic)............

 



Schematic Section through the mound of Jericho.
The Identifications are conventional chronology.

"About 2000 BC the site of Jericho was enclosed by definitive defensive ramparts comprising a stout wall of brick 12-14ft in thickness supported by an inner screen in front.........The area of the city was only about 8 acres.......The city gateway was narrow and near the spring (Now called Elisha's Fountain M.S.S.) and both these features were dominated by a massive guard-house, 60ft by 30ft containing three rooms in the line of the city walls."

"About 1800 BC, A DATE DEPENDING ULTIMATELY UPON EGYPTIAN CHRONOLOGY, the city of Jericho was re-fortified upon a more ample scale..............The area of Jericho now attained its maximum of about 12 acres. From the standpoint of military architecture the defensive works of Jericho at this time were unparalleled comprising the three fold principal of glacis, parapet and outer fosse.

General Plan. The expansion and elaborate fortification of the city at this time indicates a period of relative prosperity and the suggestion is borne out by numerous 'finds" both in the city and the necropolis. The art is that of the Hyksos period during which Egypt herself was over-run............

Names of Hyksos leaders are found upon seals both in the tombs and the palace area of the city suggested that some of these personages both resided and died there............. A vast complex of store rooms came into being at that time...........68 such store rooms were examines layer by layer down to their foundations...............Quite a number of the jars had been sealed after the fashion of the age, in the name of Hyksos chieftains........ The whole system was destroyed 1600 BC by a general conflagration, an event which seemed to coincide with the demolition of the cities ramparts, though the evidence as to the date of the latter case is not so complete as to warrant a definite conclusion.........Further extensive damage was done by a landslide, originating presumably in an earthquake which broke one of the main walls in two and brought the brickwork of this and other walls toppling down in large masses.

 

Fissured and fallen walls of Ancient Jericho
Careful removal of the debris of ages has revealed the remains in Jericho of walls that are tilted forward, deeply fissured and dislocated. In all likely hood, these are the ramparts that collapsed, probably as the result of an earthquake shock, just before the onset of the Israelites under Joshua.
"This disaster was accompanied also by local fires which completely charred and cracked the bricks and the contents of the surviving rooms..............

"The tombs of the Hyksos period were the most numerous and complete in the whole necropolis......Putting the evidence from the necropolis by the side of the discoveries of the city, we conclude the latter was captured and its fortifications dismantled at the close of the Hyksos period i.e. soon after 1600 BC but that it was soon restored and a local dynasty reinstated as a vassal of Imperial Pharaohs. This state of things endured uninterruptedly until the earthquake at the end of the 16th century involved a reconstruction of the buildings and as it were ushered in a new archaeological period, that is of the late bronze age (c 1500 BC.......conventional dating).

"We come now to the last phase in the history of Bronze Age Jericho. The buildings of this period in the palace area and their contents are found to have been consumed by an intense conflagration which has left them embedded in a knee deep deposit of white ash covered by blackened debris..... Happily again the evidence from the tombs as regards this period is complete and satisfactory. The 15th century BC is represented by hundreds of intact specimens; their stratification is undisturbed and their continuity is attested by the discovery at appropriate levels of further Royal scarabs, notably one of Thuthmose III, the successor of Queen Hatshepsut in tomb 5 and two of Amenhotep III in tomb 4............the last names Pharaoh ruled from about 1411-1375 (conventional chronology) and with his reign the deposits in the tombs and the city alike come to an abrupt end.

"Only a handful of specimens represent the ensuing centuries in vivid contrast to the full series of 1,851 pottery objects and 160 scarabs which cover the period of time from the beginning of the Hyksos period down to this Pharaohs reign. It is then established that the normal life of the city of Jericho and the parallel use of the tombs in the adjoining necropolis ceased utterly around 1400 BC (conventional dating).....

"As to the nature of the collapse of the walls and the probable cause of the catastrophe, the indications are fairly clear..........The indications are those of earthquake and it would be difficult to find any other explanation to account for a catastrophe on so large a scale..........

"We reach then the following conclusions;

a) The city perished while in active occupation.

b) Buildings and their contents were consumed by fire of exceptional intensity.

c) The Ramparts fell at the same time as the adjacent houses and the state of their ruins points to earthquakes.

d) The date of the fall of Jericho was about 1400 BC

So in spite of the doubters and the critics, the most eminent archaeologist of his day had shown the Biblical account of the Conquest of Jericho to be accurate.

And so things stood for twenty years until Dame Kathleen Kenyon came along and destroyed the illusion and in so doing inadvertently confirmed the revised chronology and the exact scenario as laid down by the Biblical account.

We will see how next week........

Any Questions?

Michael S. Sanders

Irvine Feb. 1998

 



Bibliography
  1. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land Ed. by Ephraim Stern  (ISBN: 0132762889)
  2. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East by Eric M. Meyers (Editor) (ISBN: 0195065123)
  3. The Anchor Bible Dictionary  (ISBN: ISBN: 038542583X)


 

 



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