The case of Jericho

Ancient Jericho (Tell es-Sultan) is located in the wide plain of the Jordan valley about 16 km NW of the northern shore of the Dead Sea and just to the east of the mountains of Judea. At its maximum height on the NW side, the mound rises 24 m, and its area is approximately 4 hectares. The fertile plain in which the site is situated is artificially irrigated by the spring of 'Ain es-Sultan' or Elisha's Fountain. It is fed by the regional aquifer formed by the 800-m-thick Judea Group, which constitutes the main karstic aquifer of the area. The Judea Group is formed mainly of limestones and dolestones and is divided into two main sub-aquifers. The Turonian Upper Cenomenian aquifer feeds perched springs in the vicinity, such as the springs of the Wadi el Qilt. The Lower Cenomanian Albian aquifer is the main source of the spring of Ein el Sultan (Fig. 5), the annual yield of which is about 6 x 106 m3. The yield and hydrochemistry remain almost constant, even in years of low precipitation.

The site lies 255 m below sea level. It was inhabited in pre-historic times and was established as an

Jericho Spring Diagram
Fig. 5. Hydrogeological cross-section explaining the emergence of the spring feeding the oasis of Jericho.

agricultural community at the beginning of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Period c. 10 000 years ago. Due to the aridity of the area, caused by its location in the rainshadow of the Judean Mountains, its Neolithic inhabitants practised irrigation while taking humanity's first steps in the field of agriculture.

The city flourished during the Early Bronze Period and was destroyed at c. 2200 BCE by war. It was rebuilt at c. 1800 BCE, when the climatic conditions became favourable, as can be seen on the climate section (Fig. 3). It flourished during the Middle Bronze Period until it was destroyed around 1550 BCE. The settlement during the Late Bronze period, a relatively dry period (around 1400 BCE), was poor and not permanent. The city was rebuilt during the later Iron Age (around the

HishBm's Palace

Fig. 6. Archaeological map of Jericho.

HishBm's Palace

Fig. 6. Archaeological map of Jericho.

seventh century BCE) and survived until the Babylonian conquest at 587 BCE (Fig. 6).

Thus although the flourishing and decline of Jericho followed the pattern of climate changes, which also decided the fate of Arad, the abandonment was not total, and during most periods the site was inhabited. The reason was undoubtedly the existence of a perennial spring, which, in the midst of a warm desert area, created ideal oasis conditions.

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