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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38 Comments

  • I have always known Jericho as the city that fell, however i didnt know how much power and outreach it had. this was an intersting article that was able to show the prowess of the city and spark my interest. to think a city on top of a city . good job.

  • It is a marvel to see how human kind has evolved from this first city. But in many ways the original Jericho was like any modern development. The city had defenses, a secure means of water, and sustainable food sources. It would be interesting to know exactly how the landscape was thousands of years ago when people first decided to construct what would have been a massive undertaking. Since Jericho is credited as the probable first urban city of human history, there must have been a long trial ad error process in it’s construction.

  • This was a very interesting article on the city of Jericho, and how it was so influential in our cities today. I did not know that Jericho was such an advanced city for its time, which featured well-developed houses and buildings. Overall, this was a great article that went into detail in discussing the city of Jericho, and how this city was so advanced for its time.

  • This article was very well written. Definitely highlighting more the Jericho’s culture it would have been advantageous to know more about the importance of their lifestyle. It has been a very educational article for someone like me that knew little about the topic. It so interesting to read about the first community in our world. By reading this article we learn about the great accomplishments they did and also the aspects of their failures.

  • That’s an interesting site to see- a city on top of a city. I find it interesting that somewhere in history there was this slow transition that led to permanent settlements and civilization and yet to us civilization is the norm. Did people from that time period actually call it Jericho? What does it mean? Anyways, it’s remarkable how these people were the pioneers of civilization.

  • I recalled having a lecture about this very city, the article was very interesting and informative in the sense of establishing a brief background history about the rising and falling of this first city. The idea of how people converted from being nomadic beings into people who settled on the land to cultivate and farm was such a powerful and simple concept that grasped my attention.

  • It is always interesting to read about the first peoples in human history, and seeing their failures and successes. This was a time before writing, so the only information that we have from this ear is physical evidence of buildings, pottery and the walls surrounding the “City”. I loved that they were able to find a spot that is so much different than it is today, and use the mountains as a geographical defense as well as a source for water. I found it to be an obvious success back 10000 years ago, especially because the article mentions that people still live in and around this ancient city.

  • I thought this was such a cute little article, but it felt a bit short. I feel like it could’ve added more pizazz and highlighted a story within Jericho’s culture and why it’s so important to learn about. But, aside from that I found it very interesting and educational. I feel like for someone reading this that maybe does not know anything about Jericho, it’s a perfect article since it does a great job at hitting the key facts. For example, I never knew it was known as the city of palm trees.

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