An Editorial Comment -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 12:2 (Spring 1999)
Article: An Editorial Comment
Author: Bryant G. Wood

An Editorial Comment

Bryant G. Wood

The author atop the stone retaining wall at Jericho. He is pointing to the remnants of the mud brick wall that collapsed when the Israelites attached the city. On the front cover the author is seen standing in front of the stone retaining wall. The Israelites marched around this wall when they attached the city as described in Joshua 6. (Italian-Palestinian excavation, 1997.)

In the early 1980s, while doing research for my dissertation on Canaanite pottery. I came across some startling information concerning Jericho. Based on the conclusions of Kathleen Kenyon in her famous excavations in the 1950s, it was commonly thought that there was no occupation at the site in the 15th century BC, the time of the Conquest according to Biblical chronology. In the course of my studies, I had occasion to check the reports from an earlier excavation at the site carried out in the 1930s by John Garstang. Kenyon’s reports had not yet been published. To my astonishment, Garstang’s report contained pottery from the destroyed “City IV” which was clearly from the 15th century BC! In fact, Garstang had dated the destruction to 1400 BC and attributed it to the Israelites. Kenyon overturned his conclusions and scholars have accepted her findings ever since. But my research has shown that Garstang had it right all along.

Soon after I finished my dissertation, Kenyon’s reports became available. In them was more Canaanite pottery from the 15th century BC. Why did she maintain that there was a gap in occupation? In checking her comments on the matter (she never published an in-depth study of the pottery), I found that she was basing her conclusions on what she did not find at Jericho rather than what she did find. Since she did not recover any decorated Cypriot pottery from the 15th century BC, found in tombs at other sites in Israel, she assumed that City IV was destroyed in 1550 BC and the site lay abandoned until the later part of the 14th century. Upon delving further into the results from the various expeditions to Jericho, I soon learned that the evidence from City IV backed up every element in the Biblical account.

While I knew the majority of my peers in Biblical archaeology would not agree with my findings, the evidence was on my side. Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, heard me give a paper on the Jericho evidence and encouraged me to publish an initial non-technical article on my findings in his magazine. I did so in 1990, and the reaction was overwhelming.

The international media quickly picked up the story and trumpeted the news around the world. Reports of my article were printed in major newspapers and magaz...

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