Lawrence Stager: The Miracle at Jericho Has “No Archaeological Reflex”

Lawrence Stager, “Forging an Identity: The Emergence of Ancient Israel,” in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, Michael D. Coogan, editor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 95-96.

After crossing the Jordan River, Joshua and his troops conquered Jericho (Josh. 6). They blew the rams’ horns and shouted in unison until the walls of Jericho collapsed. This miracle has no archaeological reflex; in fact, there is little or no occupation at Jericho in the thirteenth century. Kathleen Kenyon, the British archaeologist who pioneered stratigraphic excavations at the site, thought that erosion had deprived history of the Late Bronze Age city that Joshua captured. But the absence of tombs and even potsherds from this period makes Kenyon’s view highly unlikely.

1 thought on “Lawrence Stager: The Miracle at Jericho Has “No Archaeological Reflex”

  1. I was ok with this until the note about Kenyon. Maybe he explains what he means in more detail, but Kenyon postulated that the Middle Bronze Age version (the one with the walls) was destroyed in the mid sixteenth century, and carbon dating of the destruction layer has borne this out.

    She did go on to postulate a much smaller settlement around the 1400s that could possibly be the settlement taken by Joshua, but the evidence of it was scant. However, it did involve the foundation of a house, an oven, and a jug. Scant evidence to be sure, and no tombs and not a lot of pottery, but she did find some, and was probably being generous by saying that there was no way to know how big this settlement may have been – probably to continue to maintain interest in Jericho as a site. But it’s not like she just made that observation without any evidence whatsoever, which is kind of how the quote makes it sound. Like we have no artifacts from that settlement at all, and it conflates it with the collapse of the walls, which Kenyon clearly placed much earlier than the biblical invasion of Jericho.

    Anyway, just sticking up for Kenyon a little bit. She wasn’t a hack, and I feel this quote is potentially misleading both about her views and her findings.

    Liked by 2 people

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