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

  • When hearing about this for the first time last semester, it is really interesting to see what humans were capable of so long ago, and what feats were achieved by these people. I like the pictures you chose, for they show the great size of Jericho and and how the surrounding area may have effected the growth of it, too. Great article!

  • It’s always struck me as odd that Jericho is rarely mentioned in texts concerning great ancient cities. You usually hear of the biblical port cities or towns out in the desert that managed to thrive in less than favorable conditions. For being such a bastion of so many first, it’s even more interesting how much of Jericho is still intact and what we can gleam from it’s early existence.

  • Great article with lots of information. I knew a little about Jericho from the song, and from history class. I find it fascinating that one city has existed for so long even if it is not exactly in the same place it has always been. I wonder what it must be like to live in a city so old. It is interesting to me that ancient people were able to make the land and water work for them with their limited technology. For them to move water from the mountain to the desert is an incredible feat of engineering.

  • This Article felt short, I really wanted to learn about the culture and people of Jericho. I really didn’t know much about them. But, I didn’t feel like I read anything that I couldn’t have got from an encyclopedia. I do remember learning about this in Chapter One, and reading this in Church. But, this topic hd a lot of potential I felt like.

  • Jericho being the first history in human history is still active and alive today. I have only been familiar to the one talked about by Joshua and the Wall but the rich history of how the city would flourish during that time is really interesting. This article shed light on a history that in some ways is the roots to our modern day civilization. Great article!

  • Jericho also known as the city of palm trees, was the home to possibly the first water flowing system. This article was very informative and showed life during this time period for the people of this land that lived there at this time. Its because of cities like Jericho that formed the foundation of the cities we have today. Over all great article thank you for sharing it with us.

  • For someone who has never heard of Jericho, this article gave all the necessary facts and background information to understand this time period and city. I enjoy how you explained well on how the people were able to get fresh water and therefore, farm lands and do much more. This article was well written and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the oldest known city.

  • This is the first I hear of Jericho. The article was able to give me the basic facts about the 1st city and to be quite honest, it left me wanting to know more about it. I think it’s amazing how the city is to this day still inhabited! I found it the most interesting that this village in the middle of the desert was able to create the world’s first irrigation system ever. Overall, I was able to grasp the basic historic concepts about Jericho, but I would have loved to read more about its land and the two crucial routes.

  • I found it very interesting to read about Jericho in a different light. I have only heard about it through the story in the bible about Joshua and the wall of Jericho. Its amazing that it was actually the first city in all of human history. It was interesting to read about the uprising of this city and how it is still up and running today. I think that the city of Jericho is a very interesting and historic place.

  • I find this article really informative and I enjoyed reading it. I have recently just learned about this class and I really found the topic interesting. I enjoyed this article because it gave me even more information about Jericho. I find it so amazing that we have found settlements so old and that are a part of human history. It is amazing how archaeologists found towers 20 feet high and it is mind blowing to think of the architectural accomplishments they accomplished without modern equipment.

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