The ancient city of Jericho is strategically perched near the banks of the Jordan River in the West Bank Region of the Middle East. The ancient marvel of human ingenuity has a complicated and nuanced history dating back 14,000 years! Indeed, the oldest city with a history predating the pyramids is the world's first walled community.
Jericho in the Bible
The walled city of Jericho is most famous for its appearance in the Old Testament scripture, the Book of Joshua. According to the Bible, the Israelites faced Jericho after they left Egypt. The Disney production titled, The Prince of Egypt, loosely follows the story of Moses, the man according to the Bible, who led the enslaved Jewish people to freedom. After they left Egypt, the Israelites faced off with the city of Jericho. According to the story, Joshua, the man who replaced Moses as their leader, instructed the Israelite army to march around the walls of Jericho. This infamous story forever immortalized the walled city of Jericho. It appears in the book of Joshua, Chapter 6.
The Founding of Jericho
The exact age of the city is unknown, but archeologists continue to dig into the earth, peeling back layers of history. Thanks to the many scientists who have made it their life’s mission to study this incredible city, there is some information about how the walled city of Jericho came to be. Jericho was initially settled by the Natufian people group; a nomadic, hunter-gather people who first discovered the region where Jericho now sits. This lush oasis made it possible for the Natufians to stop moving. They settled in the area becoming the first human residents of the West Bank region.
Jericho is unique as it is the oldest continually inhabited city on earth. There are older cities, but none still have residents. Currently, modern-day Jericho still has an estimated 20,000 people living in it.
The Natufian people were the first to begin living in this lush oasis area known today as the West Bank Region of the Middle East. As a nomadic hunter-gather people group, the Natufian people did not live in any one area but were instead constantly on the move. They followed the migration patterns of animals that they hunted and the seasonal cycles of the fruits they gathered.
Upon discovering the West Bank something unique happened. This area was so vibrant and bursting with life that the Natufians did not continue in the wandering lifestyle. Instead, they settled down in this region and built permeant shelters. These small basic communities were the prehistoric building blocks of what would one day become Jericho.
The Natufians did not adapt to farming straightaway. Instead, they became what archeologists call "privileged hunters and gatherers". Privileged, because the area was fruitful enough to support them. This is uncommon. Not many regions of the world can naturally support human life without farming. The fact that this desert oasis allowed the Natufians to settle down and stop the cycle of moving is a testament to the lush natural resources of the West Bank.
The exact timing is difficult to gauge but most historians agree that the Natufians moved into the region around 12,500 BC and what started as a small prehistoric village of fewer than 70 homes grew to a walled city of more than 3000 people by 8,000 BC.
The Walls of Jericho
The ancient city of Jericho is famous for its walls. Indeed, archeologists believe that the inhabitants of Jericho developed the idea of walls as a tool of defense for the first time. It was the ingenuity of the Jerichonites that turned the thick clay of the Jordan River and the stones that were accessible in the region into an obstacle of defense.
The 13-foot-high walls of Jericho had many purposes. The reason the ancient people of Jericho built walls was to both keep the enemy out, as well as protect valuable resources. Stationed along the Jordan River, Jericho used the river for travel and trade. Its reputation as a resource-rich and strategic location spread far and wide by merchants and travelers alike. Jericho’s strategic position made it a target of many ancient world powers.
Another aspect of Jericho that made it so important was the numerous fresh springs in the area. Indeed, Jericho even had spring waters inside the city meaning that they could withstand a siege for longer times. The fertile area that made up Jericho was also rich for farming and was an ideal location for raising animals. The people of Jericho were the first people to create a walled city and the reasons are obvious. They had a lot to lose. Their resource-rich city needed protection from the greedy eyes of other world powers.
Jericho is an incredible city with an ancient history and many people travel every year to visit the site of the once-great city. Its natural landscape makes it an ideal place for a thriving human population and it was this reality that made Jericho such a popular place to live. The walled city of Jericho will continue to captivate the minds of people for generations to come. If you are able to be sure to check out this incredible feat of human ingenuity and visit the ruins of Jericho.