Really Digging Jericho

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 Damien F. Mackey


In the central and northern parts of Israel, the EBIII urban culture flourished. The MBI invaders in the south overwhelmed this urban Canaanite civilization and destroyed their cities but thereafter persisted in a semi-nomadic way of life. This bears a striking similarity to the tradition of Joshua’s devastating campaign against the Canaanite centers in central Palestine and his ban on rebuilding some of them (e.g., Joshua 8-28). Both Jericho and Ai were fortified cities at the end of the Early Bronze Age. According to the Biblical account, they were both destroyed by the Israelites; God specifically instructed that these cities should not be rebuilt. Interestingly enough, after the EBIII destruction of Jericho and Ai, both cities lay in ruins for hundreds of years.”.

Dr. Rudolph Cohen




Anyone who has ever seriously attempted to align the biblical record with the archaeology of Palestine can be guaranteed of one sure ‘outcome’ at least: a sore head.

I, and certain fellow correspondents at least, can vouch for it.

However, thanks to the painstaking efforts and research of the likes of Drs. Donovan Courville (The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications, 1971), Rudolph Cohen (“The Mysterious MBI People”, BAR 9:04, Jul-Aug 1983), and John Osgood – whom I have frequently quoted – some clear signposts amidst all of the oft-sifted rubble can now, I believe, be identified, enabling for a reasonable biblico-stratigraphical pattern to be discerned.



From Canaanites to Abraham



“PNA [Pottery Neolithic A] appears to be from the north and may indicate a Hittite influence (Genesis 15:20 and 25:9), or the same may be speculated of Proto-Urban Jericho (equivalent to Chalcolithic – see North8) who had rock cut tombs”.


Dr John Osgood





Dr. John Osgood I have found to be by far the best guide for making sense of early Jericho.

He has argued in his ground-breaking (archaeologically appropriate) article:


A Better Model for the Stone Age


that the first level at Jericho, the Natufian level, must have been Canaanite, and possibly Hivite: Wikipedia: “The Hivites were one group of descendants of Canaan, son of Ham, according to the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 (esp. 10:17)”.


Osgood’s next level at Jericho he thinks could have been Hittite (rock-cut tombs). Wikipedia: “In Genesis 23:2, towards the end of Abraham’s life, he was staying in Hebron, on lands belonging to the “children of Heth”, and from them he obtained a plot of land with a cave to bury his wife Sarah. One of them (Ephron) is labeled “the Hittite”, several times. This deal is mentioned three more times (with almost the same words), upon the deaths of Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph”.

Then we get to the Neolithic phase that Osgood has connected with Ghassul, which is Abram’s era. Abram as a contemporary of Late Chalcolithic En-geddi and Ghassul IV is one of those clear signposts (refer back to Part One) now, thanks to Dr. Osgood. See e.g. my:


Narmer a Contemporary of Patriarch Abraham


Dr. Osgood has written in the above-mentioned article, regarding Proto-Urban Jericho:


Kebaran – Natufian.

Kebaran culture seems to have been a less vigorous culture than Natufian and may have been overwhelmed by the latter.



Neolithic (1) or Pre Pottery Neolithic A of Palestine appears to have been very much the same as the Mesolithic Natufian culture. This is apparent at Jericho from Kenyon’s excavations.


A case has already been made for the Ghassul culture to have been Amorite (see ‘The Times of Abraham’, this volume). Furthermore, it may well have been in Canaan during the Late Neolithic, as suggested by North (Jordan I),8


One thing is clear from the biblical model; all the Stone Age inhabitants of Palestine, unless they happened to be transient cultures passing through to other lands, should be grouped under the label ‘Canaanite’ according to the biblical tradition of Genesis 10.

A further suggested identification is here made, that is, to equate the most dominant archaeological culture in Palestine of this era, namely, Natufian – PPNA-PPNB (suggestion of continuity after Moore5:16-23), with the Bible’s most widespread southern groups – the Hivites (see Genesis 36:2,2014:6 Horites = Hivites; also later in Palestine, Genesis 34:2).


PNA appears to be from the north and may indicate a Hittite influence (Genesis 15:20 and 25:9), or the same may be speculated of Proto-Urban Jericho (equivalent to Chalcolithic – see North8) who had rock cut tombs.17:273

It is, however, freely admitted that the last two attempted reconciliations are tenuous and speculative for the most part, but worth investigating.

PNA appears to have arrived from the north; as did Proto-Urban Jericho.

[End of quote]

So – and it needs to be noted that Dr. Osgood does not insist on his Hivite and Hittite identifications (“tenuous” and “speculative for the most part”), but only on the general era – we may perhaps have this biblico-archaeological sequence for early Jericho:






Wikipedia (

According to the Book of Genesis 23:1–20, Sarah, the wife of Abraham, “died in Kiryat-arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan”. Abraham the Hebrew (Avraham Ha-Ivri[4]) was tending to business elsewhere[5] when she died, at the age of 127 years,[6] and he “came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.” (Genesis 23:2) After a while, he stood up and spoke to the “sons of Heth” and requested they give him a possession as a “burying place”, and they offered him his “choice” of their sepulchres. And then in verse 7 he again “stood up” to speak to them. Abraham then requested that Ephron the Hittite, the son of Zohar, give him the cave of Machpelah, in the end of his field, “for as much money as it is worth”. (verse 9) After Ephron confirmed that he would give the cave, in verse 11, Abraham further requested that he give him the field for money, in verse 13. Ephron agreed and named a price.

Genesis 23:16 ¶ And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant. [17] And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure [18] Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.




From Joshua to Hiel of Bethel



The fundamental starting point for any biblically-conscious reconstruction of the history of the ancient Near East has to be with the firm identification of the Middle Bronze I (MBI) nomadic people with the Israelites under Moses and Joshua!



  • For the archaeology of Jericho at the time of Joshua, see my article:


Joshua’s Jericho


“The contemporaneity of the Exodus with the end of Early Bronze III and the end of the Old Kingdom [of Egypt] has chronological ramifications which alter to a considerable degree the historic structure of the ancient world”.



  • For the archaeology of Jericho at the time of the Judges, see my article:


Eglon’s Jericho


“The next mention of Jericho following Joshua’s destruction is in Judges 3 where we are told that Eglon, king of Moab, took possession of the “City of Palms” and built a palace there. The City of Palms, of course, is none other than Jericho (Dt 34:3; 2 Chr 28:15)”.



  • For the archaeology of Jericho at the time of Hiel of Bethel, see my articles:


Hiel’s Jericho


Hiel’s Jericho. Part One: Stratigraphical level


Joshua 6:26: “At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the LORD is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he… more


I Kings 16:34: “In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun”.


Hiel’s Jericho. Part Two (a): Who was this “Hiel of Bethel”?


Hiel of Bethel who rebuilt the city of Jericho (I Kings 16:34)
will be here, in Part Two, identified as King Mesha of Moab.
Does Mesha tell us straight out in his inscription that he built Jericho –
and with Israelite labour?


Hiel’s Jericho. Part Two (b, i): Different names, Hiel, Mesha?


If, as I am claiming, Hiel of Bethel was the same person as the contemporaneous King Mesha of Moab, then it becomes necessary for me to account for why the Bible would attribute to him two completely different names and geographical… more


Hiel’s Jericho. Part Two (b, ii): A Servant of the Syrians?


If King Mesha of Moab really had ruled the city of Jericho for a time, as Hiel, then he would have been following an ancient tradition, because another king of Moab, Eglon, had ruled over that same city roughly half a millennium earlier.



Hiel’s Jericho. Part Two (b, iii): Different geography


King Mesha of Moab, who I consider to have been a follower-king of the mighty Syrian master-king, Ben-Hadad I, appears to have had a chequered career in relation to the Omrides, now being subservient, now in revolt. If Mesha were Hiel, as… more










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