Tel Jericho is an archaeological site in the northeastern section of Jericho also known as er-Riha, Yeriho, Tel es-Sultan and Eriha. The tel (mound or hill) was the location of ancient Jericho and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site within the Palestinian Authority West Bank. The site is located in the lower plains of the Jordan Valley, about 10km north of the Dead Sea at 250 meters below sea level. It is close to the Ein es-Sultan spring.
Jericho is believed to be one of the oldest cities in the world that has remained permanently inhabited from the 10th millennia BC. The site of Tel Jericho is identified with ancient Jericho which is mentioned in historical documents and the Bible. Today at the site visitors can see the excavated structures which once formed the core of Jericho city.
Archaeologists first started investigating Tel Jericho in 1868 when Charles Warren made a preliminary survey of the site on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund and concluded that there was nothing to be gained by further exploration. He had sunk several shafts in the earth and missed the Neolithic tower. A more extensive excavation was conducted by Austro-German archaeologists led by E. Sellin and C. Watzinger in 1907-1909. These early explorations uncovered Bronze Age fortifications. In 1930-1936 further excavation work was done by G. Garstang.
A fourth excavation project was carried out in 1952-1958 by Kathleen Kenyon. During this excavation the stratigraphic history of the site was determined and the findings were published in 5 volumes. It was Kenyon who documented the discovery of the Neolithic tower (8000-7000BC) which was 8 meters tall. More recently La Sapienza University in Rome has resumed excavation on behalf of the Palestinian Department of Antiquities. During the excavations a clear picture was formed of the cultural history of Jericho over the past 10,000 years.
Tell Jericho History
The oldest remains on the site come from the Natufian culture (10th- 8th millennia BC) and an early Neolithic settlement from c.9600BC is evident with round houses of mud bricks and a circular tower remaining from Pre-Pottery Neolithic A period fortifications. The next historic period evident at the site is the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period where houses were rectangular and made of elongated bricks. Skulls were found below the floors of these houses. This phase of human history shows the transformation from hunter-gatherers to a domestic settlement with a more complex society. During the Early Bronze Age Jericho was a major urban center and in the Middle Bonze Age II massive fortifications were built as well as a revetment wall supporting the slope of the tel.
Archaeologists should have found evidence of Joshua’s famed “fallen walls of Jericho” during the 14th century BC (Late Bronze Age) but there were few remains found from this period and experts believe the city ceased to be an urban center. Biblical scholars explain this by saying the walls were swallowed up. There were few remains from the subsequent Iron Age and Persian period. During the Greco-Roman era the center of ancient Jericho shifted to Telu Abu Alyeq and the ancient site now known as Tel Jericho remained uninhabited.
Findings at Tel Jericho
The archaeological site of Tel Jericho is a 21 meter high mound which covers approximately an acre. During excavations remains were found of potter, tools, graves, grain storage jars, clay figures, beads, personal belongings and furniture. There is a stone tower built in approximately 8,000BC. This structure is unique for that period and a structure of this kind and age has not been found anywhere else in the world. West of the watch tower is a trench where you can see the remains of a mud brick wall dating back to 2300-2000BC when it formed part of the Canaanite city walls. Biblical scholars say that this could have been part of the house of Rahav the harlot who lived by the city gate. An ancient gateway has been discovered 7 meters underground. The gateway is believed to have been built in 1900BC-1550BC. The gate was originally flanked by two towers with walls 7 meters thick and a base 3 meters wide.