Researching Jericho -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 22:3 (Summer 2009)
Article: Researching Jericho
Author: Bryant G. Wood


Researching Jericho

Bryant G. Wood

Michael Luddeni

I am often asked, “How did you get started doing research on Jericho? As a boy did you dream of becoming an archaeologist so you could find evidence that would prove the biblical account really happened?” Hardly! When I was growing up in Endicott NY, my goal was to get a well-paying job! I knew little about the Bible, and the only archaeology I had heard about was excavating American Indian sites. I began my adult career as a mechanical engineer, but soon thereafter gained an interest in the Bible and in the archaeological findings that illuminated its pages. That interest resulted in my leaving engineering in 1973 to pursue biblical and archaeological studies. So much for a well-paying job!

But Jericho was still not in the picture. It was not until I was doing research for my Ph.D. thesis in the early 1980s that my attention was drawn to the findings at Jericho. In reviewing all of the published pottery from the Late Bronze Age in Palestine, I came across John Garstang’s pottery from the cemetery and destruction level at Jericho (1933; 1934). Although earlier than the focus of my thesis, I was struck by the amount of pottery he had published that dated to the Late Bronze I period (ca. 1500-1400 BC), the time of the Conquest and the very time period Kathleen Kenyon said was missing from the tell.

Based on his analysis of the pottery, Garstang strongly maintained that the city was destroyed at the end of Late Bronze I at the hands of the Israelites (1934: 107-10; 1937: 1219, 1220; Garstang and Garstang 1948: 121-27). Kenyon, on the other hand, based on her analysis of Garstang’s work and her own excavations in the 1950s, claimed that Jericho was unoccupied at this time (1951: 113, 115, 117, 122; 1956: 194; 1957: 256-63; 1967a: 270-73; 1967b: 75; 1973: 544-15; 1978: 38; 1979: 182; 1982: 993-94; 1993: 680). Because Kenyon was highly regarded for her expertise in field archaeology, her conclusions were uncritically accepted over those of Garstang, and are still held by most Old Testament scholars to the present day.

Upon completing my Ph.D. in 1985, the year before I joined the staff of ABR, I further pursued the matter of Kenyon’s dating of Jericho and soon discovered that she had erred, and that Garstang’s date is the preferred one (Wood 1990: 51-53). I presented the results of my research at three archaeological conferences in 1987. Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, the largest circulation magazine on biblical archaeology, happened to hear one of the presentations and invited me to write an article on the subject for his magazine. This appeared in 1990 and resulted in m...

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