Dating 1 & 2 Kings via Archaeological Anomalies and Anachronisms
(The Fallen Walls of Jericho and its burning, The Archaeological Evidence of)

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

Please click here for this website's most important article: Why the Bible Cannot be the Word of God.

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20 February 2002

Revisions and Updates through 01 May 2009

Please click here for further details on Jericho and its archaeological anomalies by Brett Palmer (2007) who refutes a Christian Apologist's claims archaeologists have misdated Jericho's fallen walls.

The biblical presentation of Jericho's history is essentially contradicted by the archaeological evidence. This article will explore the nature of this contradictory data and attempt to establish that  archaeological anomalies in regards to Jericho in 1 & 2 Kings dates these books and the whole of the Primary History (Genesis to 2 Kings) to either the 6th or 5th century B.C. It is my understanding that the Primary History (Genesis-2 Kings) was composed ca. 560 B.C. in the Exile.

The bible narratives suggest for some Conservative Protestant scholars that the Exodus occurred ca. 1446 B.C. (cf. 1 Kings 6:1, 480 yrs + 966 B.C., Solomon's 4th yr.), and some 40 years later, Canaan is invaded by Joshua, ca. 1406 B.C. Protestant Conservative scholarship prefers this date, but Liberal scholarship opts for an Exodus/Conquest circa 1260/1230 B.C., during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II. Elsewhere, on this website, I have argued that the Exodus is a reflection of the Hyksos Expulsion, dated variously 1550/1540/1530 B.C. and that this is fused with 13th-12th century B.C. Ramesside events

Professor Garstang, who excavated the city in the 1930's  thought he had found the fallen walls of Jericho according to Wilson, but later excavations carried out by Kenyon proved him wrong:

"Noting that the stones of the outer wall had fallen outwards and those of the inner wall inwards, and also that the walls appeared to have been cracked by some extraneous force, Garstang concluded that what had caused them to tumble was an earthquake  -not uncommon in the rift valley in which Jericho is situated-  and it was this which gave Joshua's Israelites their apparently heaven-sent opportunity to make their dramatic capture...Kathleen Kenyon...was able to demonstrate erosion had created a misleading picture of the different levels, with the result that the wall chosen by Garstang in fact belonged to the Early Bronze Age, circa 2300 B.C., and was the last of no fewer than seventeen collapses and rebuildings during the previous seven hundred years." 

(p. 35. Ian Wilson. The Exodus Enigma.  London. Wiedenfeld & Nicholson. 1985)

The archeological evidence at Jericho _failed_ to substantiate a walled city in existence for Joshua to attack circa 1230 B.C. at the end of the Late Bronze Age. It was understood by Kenyon (the excavator) that the city had been abandoned by that date. The city was also an abandoned ruin earlier, circa1446 B.C., being only sparsely occupied circa 1400 B.C. with only one dwelling being found!

Jericho was a mighty walled city, however, when it fell circa 1560 B.C. (other dates are 1550/1540/1530 B.C.) to the Egyptians, who are understood to have destroyed it in the course of their conquest of Canaan upon the heels of the Hyksos expulsion. This city was found to have been throughly "torched" or set on fire. I suspect this phenomena is what is being remembered in Joshua's allegedly setting Jericho on fire, destroying everything:

"They burned down the city and everything in it." 

(Joshua 6:24, TANAKH. Philadelphia. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988)

Although the city was thoroughly burned ca. 1550/40/30 B.C., evidence of "collapsing walls" appears to be primarily attested to in the Early Bronze Age of circa 2300 B.C.

Briefly quoted below from a popular work in the 1970's by the English author Magnus Magnuson, are observations about just what was found at Jericho by Dame Kathleen Kenyon. Magnusson noted that an earlier excavator, Professor John Garstang, in the 1930's identified collapsed walls, which he thought verified the biblical account. Kenyon's later excavations revealed he was in error, the walls were Early Bronze Age.

Magnuson (emphasis mine):

"She found that there had been a considerable Early Bronze Age city at Jericho throughout the third millenium B.C., whose WALLS HAD FALLEN and been rebuilt no fewer than seventeen times between 3000 and 2300 B.C., when the city suffered a catastrophic destruction. The last three stages of these fortifications had been built seven metres beyond the line of the original walls, farther down the slopes of the tell. These had been Garstang's celebrated walls that Joshua and the earth quake had apparently destroyed- except for the fact that they had been destroyed a thousand years before Joshua came on the scene.

For several centuries after the destruction of 2300 B.C., Jericho was occupied only by squatter nomads. But then, around 1900 B.C., a new city arose: the Jericho of the Middle Bronze Age...This city flourished until the end of the Egyptian Hyksos period, when once again it came to a violent end, around 1550 B.C.; this destruction by fire was probably associated with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt and the Egyptian pursuit.

Once again the site was abandoned...The site seems to have been reoccupied around 1400 B.C. on a much smaller scale. No new walls were built...Dame Kathleen is adamant that the occupation of 1400 B.C. lasted for less than a century, before the town was wrecked or abandoned again no later then 1300 B.C. Her conclusion is that Jericho, like Ai, must have been a ruin by the time of the Israelite conquest, if that is correctly dated at 1250-1225 B.C., right at the end of the Late Bronze Age and the start of the Iron Age." 

(pp. 93-94. Magnus Magnuson. Archaeology of the  Bible. New York. Simon & Schuster. 1977)


"Furthermore, not only is the city which Joshua conquered largely missing, but the next two cities that succeeded it, according to scripture, do not appear anywhere on the mound! The city of palm trees which Eglon captured and where he received tribute from Israel (Judg. 3:13) must have been Jericho, but no signs of this city have yet been found in the excavations. David's ambassadors, who had been insulted by the king of the Ammonites, stopped at Jericho until their beards were grown (2 Samuel 10:5); but again the mound furnishes no remains of this town." 

(Vol. 2. p. 837. J. L. Kelso. "Jericho." George Arthur Buttrick, et al. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Nashville. Abingdon Press. 1962)

Holland (brackets [ ] and emphasis are mine):

"With regard to a LATE BRONZE AGE fortification system at Jericho, there is NO ARCHAEOLOGICAL DATA TO  SUPPORT THE PRESENCE OF A WALLED TOWN...After Jericho was abandoned during the early part of Late Bronze Age IIb [ca. 1350-1275 B.C.]), it was not thought to be reoccupied to any great extent until the 7th century B.C."

Holland noted that a later restudy of some of the pottery excavated by the Germans at the turn of the century, as well as Garstang's and Kenyon's expeditions, revealed some Iron I and II forms suggesting some kind of a presence. But, to date, identifiable building structures and walls are still unattested until the 7th century B.C.:

"The extensive 7th century Iron Age occupation was found by all three major expeditions to Jericho...The pottery from even later phases on the mound strongly suggests that the site remained inhabited until the period of the Babylonian exile in 587 B.C." (Vol. 3, pp. 736-7, T. A. Holland, "Jericho," David Noel Freedman, editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 1992)


"It is striking that most of the remaining Old Testament references imputing some kind of sedentary life at Jericho (cf. Judg. 3:13, 2 Sam 10:5; 1 Ki 16:34; 2 Ki 2:5, 15, 1; Ezra 2:34, Neh 3:2, 7:36) are likewise without archaeological support. After the 14th century, occupation at Jericho is not substantially attested again until the 8th, but principally the 7th century B.C...It may well be that this occupation continued until the coming of Nebuchadrezzar's army in the early 6th century B.C. (cf. 2 Kings 25:5; Jer. 39:5; 52:8)."

(Supplementary Vol., p.473, G. M. Landes, "Jericho," Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 1976)

Excavations have failed to substantiate the biblical claim that the city was occupied in David's days nor was it rebuilt in the 9th century B.C. by Hiel the Bethelite:

Kenyon on her findings at Jericho:

"The final Midlle Bronze Age buildings at Jericho were violently destroyed by fire. Thereafter, the site was abandoned, and the ruins of two buildings on the lower part of the slope gradually became covered with rain-washed debris. The date of the burned buildings would seem to be the very end of the Middle Bronze Age, and the destruction may be ascribed to the disturbances that followed the expansion of the Hyksos from Egypt about 1560 B.C. During the rest of the sixteenth century and probably most of the fifteenth, the site was abandoned. The conclusion formed during the 1930-36 excavations that there was continuous occupation in this period was due to a lack of knowledge of the pottery of the beginning of the Late Bronze Age, so that the significance of its complete absence was not appreciated.

Only very scanty remains survive the town that overlies the layers of rain-washed debris. These include the building described by Garstang as the Middle Building, the building he calls the Palace (although there is no published dating evidence and it could be Iron Age), and a fragment of a floor and wall in the area excavated in 1952-58. Everything else has disappeared in subsequent denudation. The small amount of pottery recovered suggests a fourteenth-century date. This date is supported by the evidence from five tombs of the period excavated by Garstang that were re-used at this period. It is probable that the site was reoccupied soon after 1400 B.C. and abandoned in the second half of the fourteenth century. The pottery on the mound and in the tombs is certainly later than 1400-1380 B.C., the date that a calculation based on biblical evidence led Garstang to suggest for the destruction of the site, and is probably not as late as the thirteenth century, which is the date supported by other scholars for the entry of the Israelites into Palestine after the Exodus.

Of the defense of the period, nothing at all survives. The double wall ascribed to the Late Bronze Age in the 1930-36 excavations is composed in part of two successive walls of the Early Bronze Age. For most of the circuit, only stumps survive. Even of these walls and of the Middle Bronze Age glacis that buried them, only the part on the slopes of the mound is intact. At the highest preserved point of the mound, the northwest corner, the glacis is intact, but of the wall that crowned it, only the bare foundations are still in position. There is not the slightest trace of any later wall, and it is unlikely that even the most thorough search will produce any remnants.

Jericho, therefore was destroyed in the Late Bronze Age II. It is very possible that this destruction is truly remembered in the Book of Joshua, although archaeology cannot provide the proof. The subsequent break in occupation that is proved by archaeology is, however, in accord with the biblical story. There was a period of abandonment, during which erosion removed most of the remains of the Late Bronze Age town and much of the earlier ones, and rainwater gulleys cutting deeply into the underlying levels have been found.

Hiel the Bethelite was responsible for the first re-occupation, occurring in the time of Ahab (early ninth century B.C.). No trace of an Iron Age occupation as early as this has so far been observed, but it may have been a small-scale affair. In the seventh century B.C., however, there was an extensive occupation of the ancient site. Evidence of this does not survive on the summit of the mound, but is found as a thick deposit, with several successive building levels, on its flanks. On the western slope, a massive building of this period was found, with a tripartite plan common in the Iron II. The pottery suggests that this stage in the history of the site goes down to the period of the Babylonian Exile. Thereafter, the site by `Ein es-Sultan was abandoned, and later periods are represented only by some Roman graves and a hut of the early Arab period. Kathleen M. Kenyon" 

(Vol.2. p.563-564. Kathleen M. Kenyon. "Jericho." in Michael Avi-Yonah & Ephraim Stern, Editors. Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. 1976)

Pfeiffer (emphasis mine):

"F. Iron Age. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF A WALLED IRON AGE CITY OF JERICHO. A number of buildings datable to the EIGHTH-SEVENTH CENTURIES B.C. were excavated by the Austro-German expedition and seventh century B.C. structures were found in the latest excavations. Pottery and structures were found on the lower slopes of the mound indicating that THE SETTLEMENT WAS extensive and UNFORTIFIED. This occupation probably continued until the Babylonian captivity in 587 B.C." 

(p. 307, "Jericho, Old Testament," Charles F. Pfeiffer, Editor, The Biblical World, A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology, Nashville, Broadman Press, 1966, ISBN 0-8054-1130-5)

If Iron Age Jericho is no older than the extensive 7th century B.C. ruins found at `Ein es-Sultan, then a period of 100/200 years would have had to have elapsed allowing the national memory to forget when Jericho had been rebuilt. This anomaly suggests the narrative is either of the 6th or the 5th century B.C.

I have argued in other articles posted on this website that the elusive "kernel of truth" behind the Pentateuch's "fictious" Exodus account was the Hyksos Expulsion which occurred in the 16th century B.C.; furthermore, I pointed out that the Pentateuch's own chronology supports an Exodus at some point in time during the 16th century.

The biblical claim made that Jericho was rebuilt in Israelite times during the reign of King Ahab of Israel, in the early 9th century B.C. by Heil the Bethelite, who supposedly set up the city with a foundation offering of his firstborn son, and the city's gates with another foundation offering of his youngest son (1 Kings 16:34) is unsubstantiated. Archaelogists did establish that the city had been rebuilt in Israelite times, but not in the early 9th century B.C. Rather, it had been established in the 8/7th century B.C. and remained occcupied till the Babylonian Captivity, and IT POSSESSED NO IRON AGE WALLS, IT WAS AN UN-WALLED ISRAELITE SETTLEMENT CONTRA THE BIBLICAL PRESENTATION.

From the Bible's description of the fall of Jericho to Joshua we learn of two events that "ought" to be verifiable by archaeology: 

(1) Collapsing walls ought to exist 


(2) a torched city should be in evidence. 

It would appear from the archaeological evidence, cited above, that Jericho did indeed suffer collapsing walls and a horrendous burning as related in the Joshua narrative, but these two events occurred in 2300 and 1560 B.C., _not_ in 1406 B.C. as favored by some Conservative Protestant scholars (1 Kings 6:1) or 1260 B.C. (favored by some Liberal Scholars).  

Perhaps Judaeans occupying the Late Iron II 8th-6th century B.C. village of Jericho in the course of digging down into the earlier ruins, leveling them in order to build basements and floors for their homes, uncovered fallen walls and the ash evidence of a terrific burning, and "thought" their ancestors had been responsible for the city's demise? 

We must remember that these 8th-6th century B.C. Israelites did _NOT_ have access to Sir Flinders Petrie's sophisticated Archaeological Pottery Typologies (upon which archaeological chronologies are established) which are the basis of dating ruin heaps today. 

There is simply NO WAY that 8th-6th century B.C. Iron Age II Judaeans dwelling at Jericho could have distinguished Early Bronze Age 2300 B.C. fallen walls from a 1560 B.C. (or 1540/1530 B.C.?) Middle Bronze Age IIC horrendously burned city. Perhaps they found the charred grain in the Middle Bronze IIC city's storage jars as well? To explain these phenomena they "concocted" a story that God caused the city's walls to collapse and then Israel was ordered by Yahweh to torch everything, _including_ the food supplies or stored grain?

It is unlikely that the Heil the Bethelite narrative was composed in the 8-7th century B.C. when the national memory would remember the correct foundation date of the city. The inhabitants of Jericho who went into Exile ca. 587 B.C. would surely know of no Iron Age wall to their city and would certainly have objected to the biblical portrayal of it having a wall!  It is my understanding that this account  was written ca. 560 B.C.
24 September 2006 Update:

Professor Stiebing (PhD) on the absence of a walled Late Bronze Age Jericho to fall to Joshua ca. 1406 B.C. (a date favored by some Conservative Protestant Scholars):

"Kathleen Kenyon found very little evidence from the Late Bronze period at Jericho, so she speculated that the extensive Late Bronze Age city described in the Book of Joshua must have eroded away. But the remains of the eroded buildings and the abundance of pottery sherds they should have contained had to go somewhere -they should have washed down the slopes of the site and been present at the base of the mound. However, while trenches dug at three different locations around the base of the tell uncovered vast amounts of material from the eroded Middle Bronze Age city, no trace of the expected Late Bronze debris was found.

Kenyon also hypothesized that her failure to find evidence of Late Bronze city walls at Jericho might have been due to the Late Bronze population's reuse of the Middle Bronze Age fortifications. But the amount of erosion the Middle Bronze levels had undergone during the period the site was abandoned following its Middle Bronze Age II destruction makes it very unlikely that the Middle Bronze walls remained standing to any degree around the tell. If the walls had survived to a height sufficient for them to be used later, they would have acted as a dam around the circuit of the mound, keeping the Middle Bronze remains within them. The extensive erosion Kenyon noted should not have been able to occur. The only viable conclusion seems to be that there was no fortified town at Jericho for Joshua to destroy during the Late Bronze Age." 

(pp. 81-82. "Archaeology and a Late Bronze Age Exodus." William H. Stiebing Jr. Out of the Desert? Archaeology and the Exodus/Conquest Narratives. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. 1989)

Gerald Aardsma (PhD) understands that Bryant G. Wood (PhD) is wrong, Jericho did not fall ca. 1400 B.C., it fell circa 1550 B.C., based on "updated" Radio Carbon dates:

"When was City IV Jericho destroyed? The scholarly consensus says ca. 1550 B.C., Wood says ca. 1400 B.C. What source can we turn to to settle this dispute?

In fact, radiocarbon is such a source. In the early 1990's, when Wood first published his claims, there was only one radiocarbon measurement available for City IV. It was from a piece of charcoal dated by the British Museum to 1410 plus or minus 40 years B.C. Unfortunately, this date was later retracted by the British Museum, along with dates of several hundred other samples. The British Museum found that their radiocarbon measurement apparatus had gone out of calibration for a period of time, and thus had yielded incorrect dates during that period. The corrected date for the charcoal sample from City IV turned out to be consistent with Kenyon's ca. 1550 B.C. date for the City IV destruction.

The corrected date no longer supported Wood's proposal, but it was insufficient to falsify the proposal. Radiocarbon dates on charcoal give the date the wood grew, not the date it was burned. To be consistent with Bryant Wood's proposal, the wood which burned to produce the charcoal sample would need to have been cut from a living tree 150 years prior to the destruction. Of course, this is not impossible.

As mentioned earlier, no other radiocarbon dates from samples from City IV Jericho were available in the early 1990's. In 1995, however, results were published by Hendrik J. Bruins and Johannes van der Plicht from high-precision radiocarbon measurements made on eighteen samples from Jericho. Six of these samples were charred cereal grains from the City IV destruction. Bruins and van der Plicht did not set out to disprove Wood's thesis. Their stated purpose was to contribute "toward the establishment of an independent radiocarbon chronology of Near Eastern archaeology..." Bruins and van der Plicht recognized the results of their work held a serious implication for Wood's theory. They devoted only one sentence to this implication: 

"Further, the fortified Bronze Age city at Tell es-Sultan [Jericho] was not destroyed by ca.1400 BC, as Wood (1990) suggested." 

As is evident from the chart, the radiocarbon measurements strongly support the chronology advanced by Kenyon long before the radiocarbon measurements were made. This radiocarbon evidence falsifies Wood's theory. City IV was destroyed ca. 1550 B.C., not ca. 1400 B.C. City IV Jericho was not destroyed by Joshua."

An abstract on the findings of Hendrik J. Bruins and Johannes van der Plicht:

"Samples from Tell es-Sultan, Jericho, were selected for high-precision 14C dating as a contribution toward the establishment of an independent radiocarbon chronology of Near Eastern archaeology. The material derives from archaeological excavations conducted by K. M. Kenyon in the 1950s. We present here the results of 18 samples, associated stratigraphically with the end of the Middle Bronze Age (MBA) at Tell es-Sultan. Six short-lived samples consist of charred cereal grains and 12 multiyear samples are composed of charcoal. The weighted average 14C date of the short-lived grains is 3306 ± 7 BP. The multiyear charcoal yielded, as expected, a somewhat older average: 3370 ± 6 BP. Both dates are more precise than the standard deviation (sigma) of the calibration curves and the absolute standard of oxalic acid. Calibration of the above Jericho dates is a bit premature, because several groups are currently testing the accuracy of both the 1986 and 1993 calibration curves. Nevertheless, preliminary calibration results are presented for comparison, based on 4 different calibration curves and 3 different computer programs. Wiggles in the calibration curves translate the precise BP dates into rather wide ranges in historical years. The final destruction of MBA Jericho occurred during the late 17th or the 16th century BC. More definite statements about the calibrated ages cannot be made until the accuracy of available calibration curves has been tested. Development of calibration curves for the Eastern Mediterranean region would be important." 

(Bruins, H. J. and van der Plicht, J.  "Tell Es-sultan (Jericho): Radiocarbon results of short-lived cereal and multi-year charcoal samples from the end of the Middle Bronze Age." Proceedings of the 15th International 14C Conference. Cook, G. T., Harkness, D. D., Miller, B. F. and Scott. M. (eds.). Radiocarbon. Vol. 37. No. 2. 1995. pp. 213-220)

Please click here for an article on Jericho's demise as understood by Wood.


The Bible's description of Jericho states its walls collapsed and the city was torched. Archaeology "ought to be able" to _verify_ these two biblical assertions. 

Fallen walls and a torched city were verified. 

The fallens walls were ca. 2300 B.C. and the torched city was ca. 1530 B.C. 

The Iron Age II settlement (late 8th-6th century B.C.) in part overlies the tell's FLANKS, that is to say it is located ON TOP OF THE FALLEN WALLS. When these Judean settlers dug into the debris of these "flanks" to create basements and floors and wall foundations for their homes they probably uncovered the Early Bronze Age fallen walls and the remains of burned houses and walls of the Middle Bronze IIC city. Unable to distinguish the age of any the debris they concocted a story to account for the physical evidence unearthed by their spades: God had caused the city's walls to collapse and Joshua had ordered the city to be burned with all that was in it, including apparently the grain-filled jars of Middle Bronze IIC city. 

If my hunches are correct, then obviously the Bible is not the word of God. Jericho _never_ fell to Joshua ca. 1406 B.C. or 1230 B.C. as envisioned by some Conservative and some Liberal scholars.

Please click here for evidence that the Old and New Testaments both preserve an "internal chronology" aligning the "burning of Jericho's LAST WALLS (Middle Bronze Age IIC)" with the Hyksos Expulsion of the mid-sixteenth century B.C. Surprisingly, the 1st century A.D. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus associated Israel's Egyptian Exodus and Conquest of Canaan with the Hyksos Expulsion on the basis of his computations of the internal chronological data preserved in the Hebrew Bible.

Bibliography :

Gerald Aardsma. "Is Bryant Wood's chronology of Jericho valid?" The Biblical Chronologist
Vol. 2. No.3.

Bruins, H. J. and van der Plicht, J.  "Tell Es-sultan (Jericho): Radiocarbon results of short-lived cereal and multi-year charcoal samples from the end of the Middle Bronze Age." Proceedings of the 15th International 14C Conference. Cook, G. T., Harkness, D. D., Miller, B. F. and Scott. M. Editors. Radiocarbon. Vol. 37. No. 2. 1995. pp. 213-220.

T. A. Holland. "Jericho," Vol. 3, pp. 736-737. David Noel Freedman, Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday.  1992.

Kathleen M. Kenyon. "Jericho." Vol. 2. pp. 563-564 in Michael Avi-Yonah & Ephraim Stern, Editors. Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. 1976.

G. M. Landes. "Jericho." Supplementary Vol., p. 473. G. A. Buttrick. Editor. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville. Abingdon Press. 1976.

Magnus Magnuson. Archaeology of the  Bible. New York. Simon & Schuster. 1977.

Charles F. Pfeiffer, Editor. The Biblical World, A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology.
Nashville. Broadman Press. 1966. p. 307. "Jericho, Old Testament."

William H. Stiebing Jr. Out of the Desert? Archaeology and the Exodus/Conquest Narratives. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. 1989.

Ian Wilson. The Exodus Enigma. London. Wiedenfeld & Nicholson. 1985.

Bryant G. Wood. "The Walls of Jericho, Archaeology Confirms: They Really Did Come A Tumblin' Down." Creation. Vol. 21. No. 2. March 1999. pp. 36-40.

TANAKH. Philadelphia. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988.

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