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September 26, 2016

Jericho: The First City

The Neolithic Era began between six to twelve thousands years ago, when our ancestors discovered that instead of hunting and gathering, they could live in one place by domesticating plants and animals. The discovery opened the door to a new future for the human species. It began the period of agriculture, metallurgy, and pottery, causing the development of urban life and the growth of the human population. Possibly the first urban settlement was the city of Jericho.1

Archaeological site of neolithic Jericho, from the air | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Archaeological site of neolithic Jericho, from the air | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Jericho is the oldest known city, and today it is known as “The City of Palm Trees.” When one drives through the desert near Jericho, one will come to an oasis and to fertile soil. It is located 900 feet below sea level in the northern part of the Dead Sea, one of the lowest points in the world. Even though that Jericho is currently located in a desert, ten thousand years ago the neolithic village of Jericho was able to grab its water from the mountains of Moab and Gilead, which were 2500 feet above sea level and close to the village. The water would go through underground tunnels to the village, which then used the water for what was probably the first irrigation system in history. Also, the fresh water that came from the mountains gave the village’s fertile farm lands ample water for growing grain, feeding domesticated animals like sheep, goats, and dogs, as well as providing water for the palm tree groves. For its day, Jericho became a most prosperous village, and the only such village in the world.2

Jericho was not only the first of its kind, but also the strongest village in the land. Because of its unique location, it had two important routes: one was to the lands east of the city and the other one to the desert behind it, to the Palestinian coast. The village was also notable for its early pre-pottery settlement (8500-7000 BCE), with buildings made of mud brick, and unique oval shaped walls, which surrounded the whole village to protect the five to thirty families that live in it from outsiders. Their houses and buildings seemed to be well developed with rooms and kitchens. The village of Jericho was built on top of a great mound that was about eighty feet high. Archaeologist have found towers as high as twenty five feet in the village, and various fortified walls, (the walls started from five to six feet high and increase over time) because the original village was never destroyed; the people, instead of destroying it by tearing it down, build another city on top of the previous one that was standing.3 Now, people live in Jericho. It is populated by Palestinians today, but it is also a place where archaeologist and tourist go to find out about the history of our past and about the beginning of the Neolithic Era.


  1. Kathleen M. Kenyon, “Excavations at Jericho,” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 84, no. 1/2 (1954): 105.
  2. Kathleen M. Kenyon, “Excavations at Jericho,” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 84, no. 1/2 (1954): 103-5.
  3. O. Bar-Yosef, “The Walls of Jericho: An Alternative Interpretation,” Current Anthropology 27, no. 2 (1986): 158.

Rafael Ortiz Salas

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Recent Comments


  • Kiana Contreras

    Learning more about the city of Jericho has been beneficial in so many ways. The only thing I knew about it was that it was the first city to be constructed, but now I am learning the little things, such as how it had a unique location and is still standing today! Of course not looking the same since the people would just build on top of the previous one, which is pretty fascinating. Great article!

  • Daniel Gimena

    It is always fascinating to see where human civilization started. If we would be asked where we think human civilization began, it would be reasonable to say that, after analyzing today’s world, civilization started in some place that today is part of the developed world. No one would say that human civilization did its first steps were today we only see desserts, a lot of poverty and wars. I think it is fascinating to see how so many years ago humans build, with their own hands, entire cities that resemble the structure of our cities today.
    This is a clear example of how history and nature changes drastically over time; what once was the the most prosper, and best place to live, is today a territory dominated by war, destruction and death.

  • Roberto Rodriguez

    The only prior knowledge I had of the city Jericho was the story in the Bible in which the whole city falls when Joshua led the Israelites to victory over Jericho when he has faith and follows God’s instructions. I knew that it was still around today, but I had no idea that it was the oldest city. It is very interesting that it is still populated today, it is always extremely interesting to see a glimpse into the past and what better way to see that then a still standing ancient city. Great article!

  • Felicia Stewart

    This article was very interesting! I remember reading about Jericho in the Bible, and knew it as the city that fell, however, that was the extent of my knowledge on Jericho. This article did a great job of providing information about Jericho which allowed me to know more history and background to the Bible stories that I do remember. I find it interesting that this was the first city. I am curious as to how they are certain that this was in fact the first city. Jericho has a lot of history and it would be interesting to know more about the culture!

  • Ryan Estes

    Jericho is a very important city in history. I know in the Bible we have the story of the walls of Jericho falling down in the Book of Joshua. I don’t think I knew much else about Jericho before reading this article. I found it interesting that the people of Jericho were able to build underground tunnels in order to get water from the mountains of Moab and Gilead.

  • Samantha Ruvalcaba

    Interesting article. I’m curious to know how archeologists and historians were able to figure out how this city was the oldest one to exist. What sort of research methods did they use? It’s also incredible to think that a concept of a city wasn’t developed until that point in time. I can’t imagine going anywhere that isn’t a settlement or having a nomadic lifestyle like our ancestors.

  • Gabriel Dossey

    I have always known Jericho as the city that fell, however i didnt know how much power and outreach it had. this was an intersting article that was able to show the prowess of the city and spark my interest. to think a city on top of a city . good job.

  • Annissa Noblejas

    It is a marvel to see how human kind has evolved from this first city. But in many ways the original Jericho was like any modern development. The city had defenses, a secure means of water, and sustainable food sources. It would be interesting to know exactly how the landscape was thousands of years ago when people first decided to construct what would have been a massive undertaking. Since Jericho is credited as the probable first urban city of human history, there must have been a long trial ad error process in it’s construction.

  • Luke Lopez

    This was a very interesting article on the city of Jericho, and how it was so influential in our cities today. I did not know that Jericho was such an advanced city for its time, which featured well-developed houses and buildings. Overall, this was a great article that went into detail in discussing the city of Jericho, and how this city was so advanced for its time.

  • Andrea Cabrera

    This article was very well written. Definitely highlighting more the Jericho’s culture it would have been advantageous to know more about the importance of their lifestyle. It has been a very educational article for someone like me that knew little about the topic. It so interesting to read about the first community in our world. By reading this article we learn about the great accomplishments they did and also the aspects of their failures.

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