Through out much of her history, the ancient town of Jericho has been associated with walls. The most notable story of Jericho is that of Joshua, who according to Biblical accounts, caused the circumvallate walls to "come tumbling down." The natural walls surrounding Jericho also are of historical importance to the ancient settlement.
The original walls of Jericho are the result of seismographic activity producing a great rift extending from the Sea of Galilee to Northern Africa. The land in this region dropped some 3,000 feet and settled at least 900 feet below sea level. At this low elevation we find one of the oldest ancient urban dwellings of recorded history, Jericho.
Bounded by Mt. Nebo to the east, the Central Mountains to the west, and the Dead Sea to the south, we find Jericho in the center. Aside from these natural fortifications, Jericho also benefited from natural irrigation afforded by the Jordan River approximately four miles to the west, and from underground tributaries from the Central Mountains which fed her famous oasis. This irrigation resulted in teeming plant life and helped to transform Jericho into a flowing sea of green in an otherwise barren desert.
Jericho's natural resources, beauty, and natural defenses caused her to become the ideal locale for trade. These attributes also made her the source of envy and a coveted possession for invaders of ancient Palestine. Given that Jericho is located in roughly central Palestine, access to her neighboring city-states was a major key to Jericho's importance to invaders and to traders alike. Jericho's location was ideal for the establishing of trade routes and for communication exchange.
Jericho had relatively easy access to southern neighbors such as Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and to northern neighbors such as Beth Shan and Nazareth. On the other hand, the mountains on her eastern and on her western sides which fostered natural defenses by raising over one mile in height, also caused isolation from her neighbors. For these reasons, invaders saw Jericho as a key to controlling Palestine.
About twelve thousand years ago, people of the Natufian culture were attracted by the presence of a reliable spring of water to the otherwise desolate site of Jericho, located six miles north of the Dead Sea. It had become a major Neolithic settlement by 8000 B.C.
Neolithic inhabitants of Jericho lived in pit dwellings, domesticated animals, and produced decorated pottery. During the Bronze Age (ca. 2000 B.C.), the need to defend the settlement led to the construction of massive city walls and towers.
Back to Main menu
A project by History World International
World History Center