Joshua’s Jericho

 Joshua at the Walls of Jericho.


Damien F. Mackey


“The contemporaneity of the Exodus with the end of Early Bronze III and the end of the Old Kingdom [of Egypt] has chronological ramifications which alter to a considerable degree the historic structure of the ancient world”.




Drs. Donovan Courville and John Osgood, both largely ignored, have nonetheless been able to demonstrate that a true pattern for the Joshuan Conquest, archaeologically, must be one that recognises the nomadic Israelite conquerors, the Middle Bronze I (MBI) people, as those who conquered the Early Bronze III (EBIII) cities of Palestine, such as Jericho and Ai.

The popular model today, as espoused by the likes of Drs. Bryant Wood and David Rohl, arguing instead for a Middle Bronze Jericho at the time of Joshua, ends up throwing right out of kilter the biblico-historical correspondences.

Ronald P. Long (MA) writes as follows when reviewing Dr. Courville’s historical revision set (


Analysis of the archaeology directed Courville … to the fact that Israel entered the Promised Land at the close of Early Bronze III …. Widespread destruction of Canaanite population centers, especially Jericho and Ai, occurred at this time.


All acknowledge the parallelism between the end of the Old Kingdom (specifically Dynasty VI) and the end of Early Bronze III. It is at this juncture in Egyptian affairs that Courville rediscovered that the Exodus happened.


The contemporaneity of the Exodus with the end of Early Bronze III and the end of the Old Kingdom has chronological ramifications which alter to a considerable degree the historic structure of the ancient world. Locating the Exodus in the fifteenth century B.C. gives chronological orientation to Early Bronze and the Old Kingdom. Courville brings the beginnings of Early Bronze and Dynasty I down to the post-Flood era towards the end of the third millennium B.C. This development confronts us with the realization that the accepted Manethonian dynastic scheme, of placing one dynasty after another while not admitting the existence of contemporary dynasties, is fallacious. Within the framework of Biblical chronology Courville concludes that the Old and Middle Kingdoms of Egypt were roughly equivalent in time – that this period was brought to climax and swift collapse with the intervention of God in the Exodus. These discoveries also made known the fact that Dynasty VIII and the Second Intermediate periods were contemporary in Egypt and mirrored the ruinous conditions following the Exodus as the Hyksos invaders filled the void left by the departed children of Israel. Velikovsky over two decades ago drew similar conclusions regarding the Second Intermediate. It has been recognized that the Papyrus Ipuwer is the Egyptian version of what happened.

[End of quote]


Dr. Osgood’s Confirmation of Courville


Osgood, I find, brings a perspective to biblico-historical archaeology that is often quite lacking in other revisionist efforts.

Regarding the MBI people, Dr. Osgood has written, correcting the conventional timetable (“The Times of the Judges -The Archaeology: (a) Exodus to Conquest”)


Characteristics of MB I


Middle Bronze I was primarily a nomadic culture between two settled cultures. This point seemed to bring some weight of unanimity earlier but is being disputed much today for complex reasons, and is now the subject of new theories embracing both nomadic parts and sedentary parts, a theory which itself does little to clear up the historical enigma of this archaeological culture. Kenyon strongly states this nomadic character in a discussion on Jericho: —


“In one area seventeen successive stages in the town walls can be identified. The seventeenth was violently destroyed by fire and its destruction marks the end of the Early Bronze Age town, probably ca.2300 B.C. The catastrophe was the work of nomadic invaders who can be identified as the Amorites, and the succeeding period can best be described as Intermediate Early Bronze—Middle Bronze. The newcomers for long only camped on the site, and when they ultimately built houses, they were of flimsy construction. They never built a town wall.”4


Kenyon’s identification of the invaders as the Amorites is speculative and is here disputed. Indeed, this claim has fallen into some disrepute of late.


However, we wish to put forward a new model based on the evidence to be presented.


Ruth Amiram comments:


“We have refrained in this discussion from dealing with the most intriguing problem of the MB I culture in Palestine, namely its nomadic character usually connected with the Amorites.”5 (emphasis ours)


Albright also comments:


“The settlements were clearly seasonal, since the only time of the year in which such arid districts could provide enough water for beasts, men and growing crops is during the months December–May (preferably January–April). Here people lived in round stone huts of “beehive” type, terraced small valleys and suitable hillsides, utilizing flash floods (suyul) to irrigate specially prepared fields. After the harvest, they probably did not remain long since…”6


To be sure, the nomadic nature of this has been challenged, (e.g. Cohen and Dever 7) but the belief still stands as Amiram has said:


“This theory has long been contested, but much more stratigraphical evidence is required than available at present for any significant advance towards its verification.”5


Sadly, the biblical model of Israel’s wandering and conquest has not been consulted, yet it provides the logical answer, viz, a people nomadic for period, yet stationary in Sinai and the Negev I periods of up to a year at least, at any one spot, but, journeying for ultimate conquest, encampment and settlement.


This model, which is the logical model fitting the facts, will continue not to be consulted so long as the present stubborn resistance to biblical historicity remains, and so the argument over the MB I culture will continue.

[End of quotes]


Dr. Osgood then procceeds to show, including various maps, how the archaeological distribution of the MBI people substantially accords with that of the invading Israelites at the time of Joshua.

Further on, Dr. Osgood will present this argument for the EBIII Jericho as being the level attacked by the forces of Joshua, before concluding that: “The correspondence is exact”.



“Not even the slightest question of the credibility of the accepted chronology is raised.

Its hold on the discipline is too great”.



Region 4—The Conquest of Palestine


The MB I people of Palestine were a new people, a new civilization, and a new culture. Some have disputed this, but the evidence remains strong. For example, Kathleen Kenyon says:


“The final end of the Early Bronze Age civilization came with catastrophic completeness. The last of the Early Bronze Age walls of Jericho was built in a great hurry using old and broken bricks and was probably not completed when it was destroyed by fire. Little or none of the town inside the walls has survived denudation, but it was probably completely destroyed, for all the finds show that there was an absolute break, and that a new people took the place of the earlier inhabitants. Every town in Palestine that has so far been investigated shows the same break. The newcomers were nomads, not interested in town life and they so completely drove out or absorbed the old population perhaps already weakened and decadent that all traces of the Early Bronze civilization disappeared.”28


Ruth Amiram also presses very hard the point that the MB I was a new culture:


“The break with the preceding period was indeed a sharp one and allowed only few left–overs of previous traditions to persist. The succeeding period, however, follows a normal course of development. The MB IIA period, epitomised in the strata G–F at Tell Beit Mirsim and Strata X1V–XIIIB at Megiddo, constitutes the link between the culture of the period under discussion and the ‘true Middle Bronze Age’ (Kenyon’s description of the MB IIB loc.cit.). Some of the characteristic types of pottery have been arranged in Table form in Figure 1 to show their development from MB I through its Megiddo family to MB IIA. This line of continuity constitutes our main reason for retaining the old term and rejecting the new.”5


The end of the Early Bronze Age and the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, starting with Middle Bronze I therefore, is the most serious contender for the period of the Conquest, and if that be the case, then Middle Bronze I pottery must be a serious contender for the pottery of the nomadic Israelites in the wilderness and in their first settlement of the land.


Likewise, Ruth Amiran rejects a distinct cultural break at the end of Late Bronze as needed by the accepted chronology, and clearly places the new beginning at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age after the end of Early Bronze III. I quote:


“In the discussion pertaining to the transition from the Early Bronze period to the Middle Bronze, we have emphasized the sharp cultural break between these two worlds. From the MB I onwards, the development from the material culture (to judge by its reflection in the pottery) is continuous, gradual and evolutionary to the end of the Iron Age or even later.”3


Not that Ruth Amiram was proposing a new chronology. On the contrary, she accepted the belief that the Israelite invasion occurred at the end of Late Bronze, and sadly I believe has missed the significance and poignancy of her own words, as has Kenyon before her.


Let us look at the biblical narrative of the Conquest and follow it step by step, looking at what cities have been excavated to see the consistency with the biblical narrative both historically and geographically.




The first conquest of Joshua in Palestine was Jericho. Garstang originally identified the destruction period of Jericho’s Canaanite city as the end of Late Bronze Age.

However Kathleen Kenyon in her monumental excavation of Jericho has identified the destruction level which Garstang uncovered as the end of the Early Bronze Age III. Of this, she says that it came with “catastrophic completeness”28 This was succeeded by a temporary occupation by the MB I people (Kenyon’s Early Bronze—Middle Bronze). She says:


“It is thus probable that there was a phase of occupation of the tell in which there were no solid structures. That there was such a camping phase would fit the evidence from the tombs of the nomadic and tribal organization of the newcomers.”29 (See also Kenyon 30,31)


Such a description matches exactly what we would expect of some of the Israelite host camping on the site after its destruction, until they were finally settled elsewhere.


Jericho at the end EB III is the logical place to see Joshua’s conquest. The same holds true for Ai, Joshua’s next battle zone (Joshua chapters 7 and 8).




Ai has been identified with Et Tell, west of Jericho. This site has been excavated by several expeditions which have concluded that occupation of Et Tell occurred as follows:32


Early Bronze Ib Early Bronze Ic—destruction Early Bronze II—destruction—? earthquake Early Bronze IIIa Early Bronze IIIb—destruction Iron Age I


Et Tell was left a ruin for a long period of time at the end of Early Bronze III.


“Violent destruction overtook the city of Ai ca.2400 B.C. during the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt and a ‘dark age’ fell upon the land with the appearance of nomadic invaders from the desert. The site was abandoned and left in ruins.”32

This was the end of EB III.


As Calloway, the Biblical Archaeologist author just quoted, has accepted the Israelite conquest placed at the end of the Late Bronze Age due to his reliance on the Egyptian and evolutionary–based chronology currently held, an absence of a Late Bronze period at Et Tell was a problem. This has resulted in many doubting that Et Tell is in fact biblical Ai. To quote Calloway:


“It will be seen that the absence of any Canaanite city later than EB greatly complicates interpretation of the biblical Israelite conquest of Ai, for the mound was unoccupied at the time and had not been occupied since before the end of the third millennium BC.”32


The time referred to as “the biblical conquest” in that author’s view was the end of Late Bronze. No question is raised by the author as to the correctness of that currently held chronology, but simply a strained interpretation of the biblical narrative and thus a question of its credibility as an historical document is inferred.


“Whether the tradition in Joshua claims for Israel a conquest in reality attributable to her predecessors in the land (over 1,000 years before!) or whether Israel’s conquest of a different site has in the tradition been transferred to Ai can only be conjectured.”32


Not even the slightest question of the credibility of the accepted chronology is raised. Its hold on the discipline is too great. Had the biblical documents been taken at face value and allowed to be the prime measure, the end of EB III at Ai, as well as at Jericho and other sites, would have confirmed the record of Scripture so vividly that all questions would have dissipated. But the confusion of the accepted chronology is allowed to continue.


It is my claim that the biblical documents must be the rule and these allow the profound destruction of EB III all across Palestine to be identified as the destruction of Joshua’s conquest. It is so at both Ai and Jericho. The correspondence is exact.





Joshua 8:29: “Joshua impaled the king of Ai on a sharpened pole and left him there until evening. At sunset the Israelites took down the body, as Joshua commanded, and threw it in front of the town gate. They piled a great heap of stones over him that can still be seen today”.


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