Jericho: The First City

Panorama picture of Jericho | Courtesy of Wikipedia Pictures |

The Neolithic Era began between six to twelve thousands years ago, when our ancestors discovered that instead of hunting and gathering, they could live in one place by domesticating plants and animals. The discovery opened the door to a new future for the human species. It began the period of agriculture, metallurgy, and pottery, causing the development of urban life and the growth of the human population. Possibly the first urban settlement was the city of Jericho.1

Archaeological site of neolithic Jericho, from the air | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Archaeological site of neolithic Jericho, from the air | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Jericho is the oldest known city, and today it is known as “The City of Palm Trees.” When one drives through the desert near Jericho, one will come to an oasis and to fertile soil. It is located 900 feet below sea level in the northern part of the Dead Sea, one of the lowest points in the world. Even though that Jericho is currently located in a desert, ten thousand years ago the neolithic village of Jericho was able to grab its water from the mountains of Moab and Gilead, which were 2500 feet above sea level and close to the village. The water would go through underground tunnels to the village, which then used the water for what was probably the first irrigation system in history. Also, the fresh water that came from the mountains gave the village’s fertile farm lands ample water for growing grain, feeding domesticated animals like sheep, goats, and dogs, as well as providing water for the palm tree groves. For its day, Jericho became a most prosperous village, and the only such village in the world.2

Jericho was not only the first of its kind, but also the strongest village in the land. Because of its unique location, it had two important routes: one was to the lands east of the city and the other one to the desert behind it, to the Palestinian coast. The village was also notable for its early pre-pottery settlement (8500-7000 BCE), with buildings made of mud brick, and unique oval shaped walls, which surrounded the whole village to protect the five to thirty families that live in it from outsiders. Their houses and buildings seemed to be well developed with rooms and kitchens. The village of Jericho was built on top of a great mound that was about eighty feet high. Archaeologist have found towers as high as twenty five feet in the village, and various fortified walls, (the walls started from five to six feet high and increase over time) because the original village was never destroyed; the people, instead of destroying it by tearing it down, build another city on top of the previous one that was standing.3 Now, people live in Jericho. It is populated by Palestinians today, but it is also a place where archaeologist and tourist go to find out about the history of our past and about the beginning of the Neolithic Era.

 

  1. Kathleen M. Kenyon, “Excavations at Jericho,” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 84, no. 1/2 (1954): 105.
  2. Kathleen M. Kenyon, “Excavations at Jericho,” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 84, no. 1/2 (1954): 103-5.
  3. O. Bar-Yosef, “The Walls of Jericho: An Alternative Interpretation,” Current Anthropology 27, no. 2 (1986): 158.
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41 Comments

  • This article was very interesting! I remember reading about Jericho in the Bible, and knew it as the city that fell, however, that was the extent of my knowledge on Jericho. This article did a great job of providing information about Jericho which allowed me to know more history and background to the Bible stories that I do remember. I find it interesting that this was the first city. I am curious as to how they are certain that this was in fact the first city. Jericho has a lot of history and it would be interesting to know more about the culture!

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