Exhibition at University of Melbourne: Jericho to Jerusalem

Recently I visited what was described as an “important collection of Bronze and Iron Age pottery from the excavations of Dame Kathleen Kenyon (1906–1978), who is described as:

…best known for her excavations at Jericho and Jerusalem. Through these in particular, she helped to train a generation of archaeologists… In the 1950s, the University of Melbourne received a small Middle Bronze Age pottery corpus from Tomb A136 at Jericho and a portion of a large Iron Age (II) deposit from Cave 1 in Jerusalem, excavated by Kenyon from 1952 to 1954 and 1961 to 1967 respectively. This exhibition presents over 100 remarkable early ceramics from these famous excavations and tells the story of Kathleen Kenyon’s contribution to archaeology.

Ian Potter Museum of Art. Melbourne University

Fairfax wrote several glowing reviews of this exhibition, in one of which Dr Louise Hitchcock – resplendent in a keffiyeh – was fulsome in her praise of Kenyon, describing her as “the most influential woman archaeologist of the 20th century.”

Hitchcock writes:

Kathleen Kenyon occupies a distinguished place in the history of archaeology for her pioneering work in archaeological stratigraphy, refining the Wheeler-Kenyon method, which  is central among the standard methods used by archaeologists the world over, who work in five by five metre squares within a larger grid, leaving a one square metre section of soil in place, and who then remove topsoil in horizontal layers, known as strata, thus leaving a vertical section in place.

Dr Louise Hitchcock in the field.

As visitors go through the exhibition I would encourage them to look at the dates. It is the features of the pottery and the identification of particular types of pots and their assignment to particular layers in the soil that made their dating possible and it represents Kathleen Kenyon’s other unique contribution to archaeological research, her identification and dating of pottery in the Holy Land.

Sydney Morning Herald

What I found puzzling was that there was no map to put the artefacts into a geographical or historical setting, nor any catalogue, so a visitor would have gained the impression that Jericho and Jerusalem had no Jewish connection. Yet, according to the Jewish Virtual Library:


Jericho is believed to be one of, if not the oldest cities in the world.

It was also the first city captured by the Israelites upon entering the land of Canaan following their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt.

Jewish Virtual Library

Wayne Jackson, in The Saga of Ancient Jericho, casts doubt on Kenyan’s methodology:

… the chronology of the Bible indicates that the Israelite conquest of Canaan took place near 1400 B.C. Upon the basis of archaeological data, we know that Solomon commenced his reign over the united kingdom of Israel about 970 B.C. Additionally, 1 Kings 6:1 states that from the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, back to the time of the exodus from Egypt, was a period of 480 years. This would suggest that Israel’s departure from Egypt occurred circa 1446/5 B.C. Since the invasion of Canaan commenced about forty years later (after Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness), this would put the conquest of Canaan at approximately 1406/5 B.C. It is important to remember this because liberal scholars, rejecting the chronology of the Bible, date these events 150 to 200 years later!

The historical accuracy of the fall of Jericho has lain under a cloud of doubt in the minds of many for more than three decades. John Garstang, a professor at the University of Liverpool, excavated Jericho between 1930 and 1936. Garstang identified a destruction level at the ancient site which he called City IV. He concluded that this was the occupation level which paralleled the city of Joshua’s day, and that the biblical account was accurate. Jericho had fallen to Israel about 1400 B.C. For several years, scholars generally accepted Garstang’s conclusions. However, that was to radically change.

From 1952 to 1958, Kathleen Kenyon, of the British School of Archaeology… supervised an expedition at Jericho…Her team unearthed a significant amount of evidence, but surprisingly, Kenyon’s interpretation of the data was radically different from Garstang’s. She contended that City IV had been destroyed about 1550 B.C. and therefore there was no fortress city for Joshua to conquer around 1400 B.C. She suggested that the archaeological evidence discredited the biblical record! And, not surprisingly, a sizable segment of scholars fell dutifully into line…

The March/April, 1990 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, certainly no “fundamentalist” journal, contains an article titled, “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?—A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence,” authored by Dr. Bryant G. Wood, a visiting professor in the department of Near Eastern studies at the University of Toronto. He has served in responsible supervisory positions on several archaeological digs in Palestine. In this scholarly article, Wood contends:

When we compare the archaeological evidence at Jericho with the Biblical narrative describing the Israelite destruction of Jericho, we find a quite remarkable agreement (emphasis added).

Whereas Kathleen Kenyon contended that Jericho (City IV) had been destroyed about 1550 B.C., and abandoned thereafter, hence, there was no city for Joshua to conquer in 1400 B.C. (according to the biblical chronology), the actual evidence indicates otherwise. A cemetery outside of Jericho has yielded a continuous series of Egyptian scarabs from the 18th through the early-14th centuries B.C.E., contradicting Kenyon’s claim that the city was abandoned after 1550 B.C.E.“.

Christian Courier


It is clear there is a dispute about Kenyon’s dating, which might have been politically motivated, as she was a notorious anti-Zionist. Magen Broshi, an archaeologist and the former curator of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem,  reviewed a book about her:

She never married, and her friends described her as a person whose world consisted of three loves: archaeology, dogs and gin. Kathleen Kenyon was also the head of a women’s college at Oxford. She bombarded the press with anti-Zionist and anti-Israel articles and letters − she thought that the Muslims had preferential rights to the Land of Israel because they had been living there for 1,400 years, whereas the Jews had ruled the land only during the First Temple period (about 400 years) and for another 100 years, during the Hasmonean dynasty.

Broshi looks primarily at the three sites in the Holy Land that she excavated, Samaria, Jericho, and Jerusalem.  Concerning the last:

The final site excavated by Kenyon was Jerusalem, and here she was not so lucky. Despite the huge investment – seven digging seasons between 1961 and 1967 – the results were small in number and also unimportant. One reason for this is that while Jordan was still in charge of the old city, Kenyon was not permitted to work in the areas where other archaeologists… discovered many important finds.

The second reason is related to the limitations of her modus operandi, the Wheeler-Kenyon method, which relied on examinations in a limited zone and refrained from exposing a horizontal area. Careful examinations in pits, as meticulous as they may be, are likely to lead to a result similar to that of the Indian fable about the three blind men who fell on an elephant but were unable to identify it correctly: The person who fell on the tail shouted “ropes,” the one who encountered the legs declared “planks,” and the third, who climbed on the tusks, yelled “swords.” Only a dig that exposes a horizontal area is likely to take in the whole “elephant.”

Biography of Kathleen Kenyon Reviewed

One scholarly review of the archeological findings about the fall of Jericho discredits Kenyon’s dating:

… archaeologist Bryant Wood argued that a proper study of the archaeological data, and especially the pottery evidence (his field of expertise) showed that the original date that John Garstang had postulated in the 1930s for the fall of Jericho City IV was the correct date. This ran counter to the opinion, fostered in the secular press and in most archaeological circles, that Garstang’s date had been shown to be wrong by the subsequent studies of Kathleen Kenyon. Since the ongoing debate on this matter is relevant to questions of the veracity of the Bible, the historical background of the debate and its three principal protagonists follows.

The article on British archaeologist John Garstang shows that he dated the destruction of Jericho City IV (the city level associated with Joshua) to the end of the 15th century BC on historical and archaeological grounds. He did not assume that the date which can be derived from Biblical texts was correct, thereafter adjusting the archaeological findings to fit the Bible.

Garstang was not aware of the importance of the type of painted pottery which imitated Cypriot bichrome ware that he found in association with the destruction of City IV…This pottery has since been recognized as an indicator for the Late Bronze Age, i.e. the time from 1550 BC to 1400 BC and therefore supported Garstang’s date for Jericho City IV…and cannot be explained by Kenyon’s Middle Bronze date. Although Garstang may be excused for not emphasizing the significance of the imitation Cypriot bichrome ware, it is puzzling why Kenyon ignored the report of such in Garstang’s writings. Garstang’s finding of this pottery needed to be explained if Kenyon’s dating was to be credible, yet Kenyon never mentioned it.

In the 1950s, Kathleen Kenyon carried out explorations at Jericho. She redated the burning of Jericho City IV to 1550 BC, a century and a half before Garstang’s date and well before any reasonable date for Joshua’s conquest that could be derived from the Biblical text. She agreed with Garstang that the city was largely unoccupied for some decades after the conflagration, but whereas for Garstang’s chronology this was a verification of the Biblical account, for Kenyon the conclusion was just the opposite. Kenyon’s findings became widely accepted, and now it is common for skeptics to argue that since there was no city for Joshua to conquer in the late 15th century BC, the Bible’s story of Joshua capturing Jericho is a fiction.

The final publication of Kenyon’s work revealed that there were serious oversights or flaws in Kenyon’s methodology. She ignored the common pottery types that were found in Jericho City IV, instead focusing on the imported Cypriot ware that she said was not present in her area of excavation…

…Wood further noticed that Kenyon’s research did not properly account for the evidence of the Egyptian scarabs uncovered by Garstang which showed that the cemetery outside the city was in continuous use from the 18th century BC down to the early 14th century  –  evidence against Kenyon’s claim that Jericho was not inhabited in the 15th century BC.

Conservapedia: Jericho_chronology_dispute

This exhibition is on until 6th April next year, so plenty of time for locals to visit and decide for themselves whether historical revisionism has occurred in order to wipe any trace of Israel’s presence from the archeological map.

Check Also

From Israel: “Give No Quarter!!”

The world is in horrendous shape.  And yet, yet the focus is on us, here …