The Canaanite walls of tel jericho

The Canaanite walls of Jericho

The Bible says that the walls and the city of Jericho were destroyed by Joshua. Does archaeology confirm this? If you look at the evidence of what has been found, the resounding answer is … YES IT DOES!  The ancient walls of Jericho did come tumblin’ down!

Now, not everyone would agree with this perspective that the archaeology confirms the historical record of the Bible.  In fact, many if not most Israeli archaeologists would contend that there is no such archaeological evidence for a city standing here when Joshua is supposed to be here attacking it. What leads them to conclude that the Bible is wrong in this case involving Joshua and the story of Joshua 6?  On the other hand, how can those (like me) conclude, for instance, that the stone retaining walls (on top of which was a mud-brick wall, the one that came “tumblin’ down”), that can be clearly seen on the southern end of the tel or ancient mound of Jericho were the actual supporting walls Joshua himself saw? Once again, if one looks at the evidence of what has been found, the archaeological discoveries over the last 100 years indeed confirm the Biblical record of Joshua 6.

john garstangs excavation of jericho in 1930s

John Garstang’s (British) excavation of Jericho in the 1930s

Jericho is an archaeological site located just north of the Dead Sea in the Jordan River Valley. The city’s location made it the first fortified city taken by Joshua. Joshua 6 unfolds the remarkable story of the conquering of this city.  Although the size of the city was only 11 acres, the city’s double wall fortification made it a formidable fortress with a high level of defense.

The history of archaeological excavations at Jericho is a long one, but let me summarize.  The first major excavations of the site took place between 1907 and 1909. Mud bricks were found at the base of the site. Excavations again returned to the site in the 1930s and 1950s by British teams led by John Garstang and Kathleen Kenyon, respectively. The question of interpreting the date of the collapsed wall when the city was destroyed was, and still is, a topic of discussion and debate.

storage jars of burn grain found at jericho

Storage jars filled with burnt grain, discovered by Kenyon in the 1950s

To summarize the argument, there are those who would argue that the date when these primary fortification walls were destroyed was in the middle of the 16th Century BC (a time before Joshua of the Bible). These are the ones who contend that if these walls date to the Middle Bronze Period, there as no city for Joshua to destroy. Thus, the Bible’s narrative of Joshua 6 must not be true. This was Kenyon’s position, and her (wrong) conclusions greatly influenced the view of biblical scholarship in dismissing the Bible as a document that is not historically true.

However, for others who honor the historicity of the text of Scripture, the interpretative date for the destruction of these walls is the middle of the 15th Century BC. This later date matches perfectly with the story in Joshua 6 when Joshua destroyed the city entirely.

cypriot bichrome pottery late bronze period

Cypriot Bichrome pottery, Late Bronze Period, 15th century BC

The big issue of the dating of the walls boils down to the type of pottery that was found here. Archaeologist Dr. Bryant Wood argues that the localized type of pottery called Cypriot Bi-chrome pottery was found in abundance within the destruction level of these walls. This is pottery that dates to the early part of the Late Bronze Period (or 15th century BC). If so, it matches perfectly with the Biblical record that tells us that Joshua conquered the city somewhere around 1,410 BC. In addition to the evidence of the pottery, there is also a thick burn level of destruction (up to 1 meter thick!) as well as jars of wheat that were also burned. Thus, taking a look at the details of the Joshua 6 story, this is what precisely happened… with the blowing of the rams horns the walls fell, followed by a complete destruction of the city, including Joshua burning the city! Simply put, the archaeology and biblical records match up perfectly!

Our good friends at Sourceflix produced this short video clip that features Dr. Bryant Wood and his explanation of how the walls came down. It is very helpful to see how the walls came tumblin’ down!

The ancient walls of Jericho did come tumblin’ down!

The Walls of Jericho from on Vimeo.

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