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JERICHO Part V - The Archaeology (b)

Last week we saw that in the 1930s the most eminent archaeologist of the day Professor Garstang (who is still extremely well regarded by archaeologists and especially Egyptologists) saw the archaeology of Jericho as confirming the Biblical account of its destruction.

His findings however caused a number of difficulties for Egyptologists. If the conquest took place during the XVIIIth dynasty of Egypt, where was the evidence of building in the Delta by the Children of Israel during this era. Further the date of the Exodus was still preferred to be in the XIXth dynasty and Garstang's results just did not fit.

The problem continued to baffle the experts until the 1950s when the site was re-examined by Dame Katherine Kenyon under the joint sponsorship of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, The American School of Oriental Research, also in Jerusalem, the Palestine Exploration Fund, the British Academy and the Royal Ontario Museum.

Her analysis of the site caused her to completely re-assess Professor Garstang's findings. She concluded that the double wall of his last (fourth) City could not be dated to 1400BC in the Middle Bronze Age but rather to the Early Bronze Age (EBIII) which she dated as terminating around 2100BC, a difference of some 700 years.

Burnt timbers of an Early Bronze Age building She concluded that it just could not possibly be connected to the invasion of Joshua. Further she found that in her view Jericho was not even occupied for at least 150 years before 1400BC. She claimed:-

"that almost all traces of the Late Bronze Age town of the time of Joshua had been destroyed by erosion." (Archaeology in the Holy Land p. 332).

She claimed that the town had been destroyed by fire and earthquake, but in c. 1580BC at the end of the MBII period. She stated that a convenient date for the end of the Middle Bronze Age is the rise of the XVIIIth dynasty in Egypt in 1567 BC (the accepted conventional chronology) when Egypt drove back the Asiatics and began to recover her control over Syria.

The destruction therefore of the walls which she found were later than the latest of Garstang's last town, was caused by the Egyptians following the expelled Hyksos into Palestine. But Jericho is in a very strange location for such an Egyptian invasion. Yes, it guards the entrance of Palestine from Moab, but it is not on any main North - South route. It is very unlikely indeed that an Egyptian invader would bother with the city of Jericho.

"At Jericho, the evidence for the destruction is even more dramatic. All the Middle Bronze Age buildings were violently destroyed by fire. The stumps of the walls are buried in the debris collapsed from the upper stories and the faces of these stumps and the floors of the rooms are strongly scorched by fire. This destruction covers the whole area about 52 meters by 22 meters." (Archaeology in the Holy Land p. 181).

"The stratigraphical evidence suggests in itself that there was a gap in occupation at Jericho. This is confirmed by a gap in the occupation of tombs in the cemeteries. Burials cease in all the tombs in the northern cemetery at the end of the Middle Bronze Age. There is a similar break in those in the western cemetery. But in the latter area, five were found to contain deposits belonging to the Late Bronze Age." (Archaeology in the Holy Land p. 182)

These she dates around 1375-1300BC which is still before the time she would date Joshua.

"The evidence from the 1952-8 excavations at Jericho indicate that there was a Late Bronze Age (LB) town there in the 14th century which might have been attacked by Joshua, BUT NOTHING SURVIVES TO ILLUSTRATE THE BIBLICAL ACCOUNT. (my emphasis). It also suggests that if this destruction followed by 600 years of abandonment was the work of the Israelite tribes under Joshua, it is not likely to have been later than c. 1300BC which is difficult to reconcile with a flight from Egypt c. 1260 BC." (Archaeology in the Holy Land p. 182).

In one fell swoop she proves the Biblical account of Joshua to be a myth, discounts both the accepted XVIIIth and XIXth dynasty theories for the origin of the Exodus, finds no evidence for the occupation of the King of Moab and nothing from the time of Ahab. Garstang's meticulous work is all for naught.

Let us try to sum up exactly what she did find. She discovered that at the end of the EBIII there was a wall described so dramatically by Garstang as the one destroyed by fire and earthquake.

"Newcomers who were presumably the authors of the destruction settled in considerable numbers in the area BUT THEY DID NOT BUILD FOR THEMSELVES A WALLED TOWN." (my emphasis) "In the intermediate Early Bronze-Middle Bronze period, the burial practice is essentially that of single burial, though occasionally there are two bodies. As a result there are an enormous numbers of tombs of this period. All energy and constructive ability seems to have been directed towards habitation for the dead instead of the living."

She found another major destruction of the site by fire at the end of the Middle Bronze period.

"The MBII town was at an early stage defended by a free standing wall......... after five successive building stages this type of defense was succeeded by one in which the important element was an artificial bank; at Jericho this again had three stages." (Archaeology in the Holy Land p. 164)

After this was destroyed there is just some limited evidence of occupation during the Late Bronze Age and after that NOTHING. For those who had read the early history of Jericho in the Bible and were sophisticated archaeologists and Egyptologists, the three stories just did not fit one another.

Let us therefore, as an experiment try and resolve the situation by using a simple technique. Using only the words of Garstang and Kenyon, the words of the Biblical account and the accepted history of Egypt but LEAVING OUT THE ABSOLUTE DATES WHICH ARE SOLELY BASED ON EGYPTIAN CHRONOLOGY, does the story fit?

There are two possible positions for the conquest of Joshua; either the wall which Garstang suggested but which Kenyon stated was EBIII, or another wall which Kenyon discovered from a later age, but which she claimed was still too early at the end of MBII.

The problem with this second wall is that nothing much came after it and we need, for the Biblical account to fit, at least two periods of occupation.

If Garstang's wall is the wall of Joshua, Kenyan's wall is the final wall of a series which started with the gradual occupation by the Benjaminites, their expulsion by the King of Moab, the re-occupation by the Benjaminites and then the final burning by the other tribes of Israel.

The Hyksos (sic) remains are those of the inhabitants living there BEFORE the Exodus PRIOR to their moving into Egypt. The last Egyptian tombs therefore must be those of the Egyptians living in Canaan just after the time of Hiel, who were probably instrumental in giving advice on the protection of the Northern Kingdom from invasion by Moab and of course the power of Judah in the South.

John J. Bimson has written extensively on the timing of the Exodus (Redating the Exodus and Conquest: Sheffield 1978 and in the S.I.S. Review) and has come to a different conclusion as did Rohl ( Pharaohs and Kings). They place the destruction by Joshua at the end of MBII.

Bimson presents as evidence the fact that:

1) The City was burnt

2) That multiple burials were present were present "very late in the history of the Middle Bronze Age" which he links to the plague the Israelites experienced just prior to their invasion of Jericho.

3) That some tombs contained well preserved bodies due possibly to the release of natural gas containing methane and carbon monoxide which was caused possibly by an earthquake.

This proposal whilst tempting ( but which was soundly condemned by Baruch Halpern in a critique in the Biblical Archaeological Review....just after which he reviewed my chronology without finding any such problems) on the surface suffers from a number of problems.

1) Of course the occupation by Eglon of Moab has to be ignored.

2) The destruction by fire of all the cities of the Benjaminites has to be ignored.

3) He has, when comparing other destructions at the end of MBII throughout the land of Palestine, to continually switch from the hypothesis that it was an Israelite destruction to that of a Thuthmose III destruction.

For example Lachish was destroyed by fire at the end of MBII, but the Biblical account precludes such an event. Thuthmose III is then introduced as the candidate. In some way both the Exodus and the invasion of Thuthmose III seemed to have occurred around the same time, a very strange hypothesis indeed.

There can be no doubt that the MBII destructions in many Palestine towns on a route of an Egyptian invasion were caused by Thuthmose III. Those destructions which took place at about this time and not on the invasion route (like Jericho) must have been by another agency and we have a very likely candidate for Jericho.

The evidence is clear. Garstang was correct in his identification of the wall Joshua attacked and Kenyon was correct in dating this event to be the end of EBIII. They were of course both wrong in their ABSOLUTE dating which was based on an erroneous Egyptian chronology. But then that is the solution to ALL the anomalies and problems found extensively on most sites in the Near East.

Next week we will review the latest work on Jericho and sum up the evidence that Jericho confirms in all its aspects the Biblical Account.


JERICHO-TELL ES SULTAN © Michael S. Sanders 1987
Stratum Description Conventional Explanation Revised Explanation
Town A.
Conventional date 2500-2100
Revised date 1775-1452
Walled fortified city whose walls were rebuilt at least 16 times in the whole early Bronze age period Pre-Patriarchal era. Time of independent city states. Canaanite City
Destruction by earthquake and fire. Intermediate Period EBIII/IV two catastrophes close together Destruction everywhere in Near East. 2nd destruction by invasion of enemies. 1st destruction same event which causes Exodus catastrophes. 2nd destruction Joshua's blast.
Town B
Conventional Date 2100-1900
Revised Date 1452-1399
This and all other towns in Canaan show occupation by a completely new people after an Intermediate time of living in tents. Arrival of the nomadic Amorites followed by more settled invaders. Invasion by Joshua and the Children of Israel. Garrison of Benjaminites in spite of law against occupation.
Town C, Palace I.
Conventional Date 1900-1500
Revised Date 1399-1185
City reaches maximum size of 12 acres expanded from earlier 8 acres. At an early stage defended by free standing wall and then three successive building phases. Urban Semitic culture derived from coastal Canaanite and Phoenician culture. Under a ruling warrior aristocracy compared to the Hyksos in Egypt. 1. Eglon smote Israel and "possessed" the City of Palms
2.. Occupation by Eglon King of Moab.
3. Expulsion of Moabites by Ehud
4. Re-Occupation by garrison of Benjaminites
Destruction City violent destroyed Egyptians chasing Hyksos out of Egypt Final burning by Israel revenge against the Tribe of Benjamin.
Town C, Palace II.
Conventional Date 1525-1425
Revised Date 1185-1022
Very Little evidence of a town, no fortifications of note Canaanite Town. Tombs have many Egyptian scarabs from Thuthmose III through Amenhophis III abruptly ending Thuthmose helps Deborah in her battle with Sisera, hence Egyptian influence in the area at this time.
Town D.
Conventional Date 1400-1200
Revised date 1022-915
Little evidence of a town Mostly "eroded"   Meager occupation, David asked men to tarry there.
Final Destruction of Town. Very little evidence of anything Invasion By Sea Peoples No evidence of anything
Iron Age II Massive Building found No Explanation Building by Hiel, time of Ahab

Any Questions?

Michael S. Sanders

April 14, 1998

Irvine California


  1. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land 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: 038542583X)
  4. Archaeology in the Holy Land by Kathleen Kenyon (ISBN: 0840775210)
    Out of Print


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