Piotr Bienkowski has challenged the results of my analysis of the date of the destruction of the fortified Bronze Age city at Jericho, maintaining that Kathleen Kenyon’s date of about 1550 B.C.E.a is correct and should be retained.
Before taking up Bienkowski’s remarks, I wish to correct a misstatement at the beginning of his paper. He states that in my article,1 I was attempting to show that the destruction was inflicted by the Israelites as recorded in Joshua 6 and Judges 3. This is an erroneous statement. The events described in Judges 3 did not enter into my discussion at all. I dealt with the correspondence that exists between the archaeological findings at Jericho and the Biblical account in Joshua 3–6. With a correction in the dating of the destruction of the city, it is now feasible to make a connection between the two.
Bienkowski’s attempt to explain away the evidence for lowering the date of the destruction of Jericho is misguided and void of substance. Assertions made without data to back them up are unconvincing. His discussion is superficial, at best, lacking both depth and precision.
Bienkowski begins by making the point that since Cypriote imports from the Late Bronze IIA period (1400–1300 B.C.E.) were found at Jericho, Kenyon was quite correct in utilizing the absence of these wares from the Late Bronze I (1550–1400 B.C.E.) period 047as a basis for her dating. The occupation in Area H, however, where Kenyon found the ruined Bronze Age city, was much different in the Late Bronze IIA period than in the Middle Bronze-Late Bronze I period. There was a protracted time of abandonment between the two periods, resulting in a cultural discontinuity. In the Middle Bronze-Late Bronze I period a fortified urban center existed at the site, with Area H being a poor domestic quarter. In the Late Bronze IIA period, on the other hand, Area H was occupied by an isolated palace, or residency, with associated outbuildings. Commercial relations, trade patterns and the types of ceramic wares in use would not necessarily be the same in the two periods. Be that as it may, it is simply poor methodology to base dating almost exclusively on the lack of imported pottery. While the “absence of Late Bronze I Cypriote imports may thus be significant” as Bienkowski has stated, the primary method of dating should be a thorough analysis of the local pottery. This has never been done. The presence or absence of imported pottery can be used as a supporting argument, but it should not be the sole basis for determining a date.2
Bienkowski next states that the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt in the mid-16th century bears no relevance to the dating of the destruction of Jericho. This was exactly my contention; I am glad that he agrees with me on this point! The two events should not be correlated, as Kenyon had done.3
Bienkowski then suggests that even though the Egyptians or Hyksos were not responsible for the destruction of Jericho, a destruction could have occurred in the mid-16th century as a result of local conflicts between the various Middle Bronze urban centers. Regardless of the merits or shortcomings of Bienkowski’s suggestion, it contributes nothing to the determination of the date of the destruction of Jericho, the major issue at stake.
Bienkowski then turns to the four types of data which I put forward as evidence for a date of about 1400 B.C.E. for the destruction of Jericho. He discusses each item in turn, a format which 1, too, shall follow. Of these four lines of evidence, the ceramic data are first and foremost. The other three are merely supportive and are not in and of themselves sufficient to compel a revision of Kenyon’s date. Taken together, however, they form a strong case for lowering Kenyon’s date.
A discussion of the ceramic data is somewhat premature, since my detailed study of the pottery of the Middle Bronze-Late Bronze I period at Jericho has not yet been published. Since Bienkowski raised a number of points, however, I shall be happy to discuss the pottery, probably to the chagrin of the majority of BAR readers! Bienkowski refers to the figure of pottery types that appeared in my article and comments that they are forms “that have a long life and that are not particularly diagnostic of either the Middle or Late Bronze Age.” The particular forms illustrated were chosen by the editors from a larger plate which I submitted with the article. The entire plate is reproduced here. The plate shows a selection of Late Bronze I forms from Kenyon’s excavation. John Garstang, having excavated a much larger area, recovered many more diagnostic Late Bronze I types.
To begin with, it is important to recognize that the pottery of the Late Bronze I period is very similar to that of the final phase of the Middle Bronze period. In fact, the material culture of the Late Bronze I period is simply a continuation of that of the Middle Bronze period. As a result, many Middle Bronze forms continue into Late Bronze I. There are subtle differences in a number of types, however, and several new forms are introduced. With careful study of the pottery evidence, therefore, it is possible to distinguish the Late Bronze I period from the terminal phase of the Middle Bronze period. Let us now examine the pottery illustrated in the plate.
Figure 1 is referred to as a “flaring carinated bowl.” This type has a long history, as Bienkowski points out. But during this history, changes were taking place. In the Middle Bronze period, the bowl had a pronounced crimp at the point of carination. In the Late Bronze period, on the other hand, the crimp became less pronounced until it finally disappears altogether at the end of the Late Bronze Age.4 In the Late Bronze I period, then, the crimp is generally less pronounced than in the Middle Bronze period. Bienkowski cites a Middle Bronze II parallel for this form from Gibeon tomb 30.5 Here, Bienkowski is falling into the same trap as Kenyon—he is using unstratified tomb pottery to date a stratified occupational deposit! Bienkowski himself has commented on the impropriety of this procedure.6 Tomb groups are isolated deposits which cannot be placed in a chronological sequence as can stratified tell deposits. Moreover, tombs were often used for long periods of time; the material in them is mixed and represents a wide chronological spectrum. Stratified tell material should be given preference over tomb material, rather than the reverse. Given that the material in Gibeon tomb 30 all dates to the Middle Bronze II period as Bienkowski suggests, the discerning eye will note that the Gibeon example has a more pronounced crimp and therefore should be placed earlier than the Jericho example. One could argue this point, however, since the difference is slight. The important point is that the flaring carinated bowl with slight crimp is perfectly at home in the Late Bronze I period, as seen by the many parallels from well-dated stratified Late Bronze I contexts such as Lachish Fosse Temple 1, 7 Megiddo IX,8 Hazor 2, 9 Hazor cistern 9024, level 310 and Hazor cistern 7021, level C.11
Figures 2, 3 and 4 are conical bowls with concentric circles painted on the inside. I discussed this type at some length in my article since it is a strong diagnostic 048indicator for the latter half of the Late Bronze I period.12 It is one of “only two forms” for which I cited parallels in the article. The reason for this is obvious. A semipopular journal such as BAR in not the place to enter into a detailed discussion of Late Bronze I pottery. Bienkowski dismisses the cited Late Bronze I parallels from Ashdod and Hazor by stating that an “attempt to achieve a precise dating by parallels from such a distance is unconvincing.” This is a desperate attempt to discount this telling evidence. The distances to these sites are well within the orbit of itinerant merchants, the primary agents for the diffusion of ceramic wares in antiquity. Thus, similar types at these sites should be considered to be contemporary.13 Not only is the conical bowl with interior concentric circles a major bowl type in the latter half of Late Bronze I levels of Ashdod and Hazor, but it is also found at virtually every site where there are remains from the latter half of Late Bronze I, such as Lachish Fosse Temple 1, 14 Shechem XIV,15 Mevorakh XI16 and Megiddo VIII.17
Figures 5, 6 and 7 are bowl types that are more in the Late Bronze tradition than Middle Bronze. Parallels from Late Bronze I strata are, for figure 5, Rabud LB418 and Shechem XIV;19 for figure 6, Lachish Fosse Temple 1; 20 for figure 7, Lachish Fosse Temple 1, 21 Mevorakh XI,22 Megiddo VIII23 and Hazor 2.24
Figure 8 is a store jar for which Bienkowski cites a supposed Middle Bronze parallel from one of the Gibeon tombs.25 The parallel in this case is invalid. Bienkowski’s “parallel” is not a store jar at all, but rather a smaller jar usually called a water jar. It has a rim diameter of about 5.1 inches compared to 6.1 inches for our figure 8, while its maximum body diameter is 10.6 inches compared to 16.5 inches. These are two completely different types of vessels with differing modes of typological development. In the Middle Bronze period, the store jar comparable to our figure 8 had a short neck and a thick heavy rim, many times profiled, which was only slightly everted. In the Late Bronze Age, on the other hand, the neck was longer, with a simple outward-folded rim that had a more pronounced eversion. The Jericho store jar can be compared with Late Bronze I examples from Lachish Fosse Temple 1, 26 Rabud LB4,27 Shechem XIV28 and Hazor cistern 7021, level C.29
Figure 9 is a saucer lamp with slight pinching to form a spout. Good parallels are found in Lachish Fosse Temple 1.30
Figures 10, 11 and 12 are round-bottomed, everted-rim cooking pots. Figure 10 simply shows the continuation of the simple everted rim which had its beginnings in the Middle Bronze period. Parallels in Late Bronze I are found in Lachish Fosse Temple I,31 Shechem XIV,32 Michal XVI,33 Mevorakh XI34 and Hazor 2.35 Figure 11 is significant because it shows the widened rim flange which developed in the course of the Late Bronze I period. The evolution of the cooking pot during the Middle Bronze-Late Bronze transitional period is well documented at Jericho. The end of this developmental series is firmly tied to similar examples from Lachish Fosse Temple 136 and other Late Bronze I deposits such as Rabud LB4,37 Ashdod XVII,38 Michal XVI39 and Hazor XV/2.40 Figure 12 is the other type for which I cited references in the article because, again, this is a distinctive form unique to the Late Bronze I period.41 It has an unusual feature—an inner lip, or gutter, which may have served to support a cover. Well-stratified parallels have been found in Hazor 2.42
Figure 13 is a water jar decorated with painted stripes. This form also is a Late Bronze form not found in the Middle Bronze period. Similar decorated jars are found in Late Bronze I contexts in Ashdod XVII,43 Hazor 244 and Hazor cistern 7021, level C.45
Last but not least is figure 14, a dipper juglet for which Bienkowski gives us a Middle Bronze parallel in Gibeon tomb 11.46 Although this type had its beginnings at the end of the Middle Bronze period, it is transitional between the long dipper juglet of the Middle Bronze and the Late Bronze II short dipper juglet, and is the common form for Late Bronze I. Good Late Bronze I parallels come from Lachish Fosse Temple 1.47
Bienkowski’s second point under Ceramic Data is puzzling. He states that the Middle Bronze period ended at different times at different sites for different reasons. That is all well and good, but what does that have to do with the date of the destruction of Jericho? The implication is that each site must be investigated individually to determine the date and nature of its demise. This is exactly what I am advocating for Jericho! We can no longer say that all of the Middle Bronze centers in Palestine came to an end at the same time by the same agency, as has been argued in the past. He then goes on to say, “Kempinski suggested that Jericho City IV was destroyed well before the end of Middle Bronze II.” Checking the reference for this statement,48 we find that Kempinski said nothing of the sort. The reference is to a comparative stratigraphic-chronological table in which Kempinski places Kenyon’s tomb group V in the mid-17th century B.C.E. He says nothing about the tell strata. It is extremely difficult to correlate the tomb groups with the tell strata,49 as Bienkowski himself has acknowledged.50
In point 3 under Ceramic Data, Bienkowski suggests that there was a technological change in pottery manufacture in going from the Middle Bronze to Late Bronze I (“fast” wheel versus “slow” wheel), and that since all of the pottery I illustrated was made on a fast wheel it must date to the Middle Bronze. Again, Bienkowski has his facts mixed up. Patrick E. McGovern has conclusively shown that the switch from fast wheel to slow wheel took place between Late Bronze I and Late Bronze II, not between the end of the Middle Bronze and Late Bronze I.51 Pottery in Late Bronze I was made on a fast wheel, as it was in the Middle Bronze period. I would question how Bienkowski reached the conclusion that “the pottery Wood cites from Jericho is entirely fast-wheel-made.” It is not always possible to make a conclusive determination of the method of manufacture from an examination of the vessel itself, let alone from a drawing. Based on considerable xeroradiographic testing of ceramics from the Baq’ah Valley in Jordan, McGovern concluded that “macroscopically visible features of ceramics are not adequate in defining specific technologies and their development “52
Bienkowski next takes up the matter of the pottery decorated with black and red paint which I said “appears to be imported Cypriote bichrome ware.”53 Bienkowski says this is “standard Late Bronze II painted ware.” Not so! The fabric of the Jericho bichrome pottery is much different than the local Late Bronze II wares. The fabric of Late Bronze II pottery generally is of a poor quality. It has large grits and is not fired all the way through. The Jericho bichrome pottery, on the other hand, is of a high quality. It is the pinkish-buff, well-levigated fabric common to Cypriote bichrome ware. It has a finely ground temper all but invisible to the naked eye and is well fired with no core. Garstang published a considerable amount of this pottery, which he referred to as “red ware.” Among the sherds he published are several with classic Cypriote bichrome ware motifs.54
Bienkowski clinches his argument by stating that this pottery did not come from the erosional layers on the east side of the tell as I stated, but rather from the rooms 049of the Late Bronze II “Middle Building,” as the markings on the sherds indicate. Again, Bienkowski has not done his homework. Following the destruction of the Bronze Age city at Jericho, the site lay abandoned for a considerable period of time. During this period, material from the top of the tell washed down the slopes, forming a thick layer of erosional debris (Garstang’s “streak,” Kenyon’s “wash”). Toward the end of the Late Bronze IIA period (second half of the 14th century B.C.E.), a large palace or residency (Garstang’s Middle Building), with its associated outbuildings, was built into the erosional layer on the east side of the tell. The Middle Building was occupied only for a generation or so and then abandoned. After this abandonment, material again washed down from the higher elevations, covering the ruined building.55 When Garstang excavated the Middle Building, he found almost no pottery on the floors of the building itself,56 a fact duly noted by Bienkowski.57 For record-keeping purposes, however, Garstang labeled his finds according to the areas defined by the rooms of the Middle Building, with notations concerning the level, that is, whether from high in the debris (the upper erosional layer), on the floor of the building, beneath the foundations of the structure (the erosional layer below) or, in some cases, in the ruins of the Bronze Age city below. Thus, as Kenyon observed some time ago,58 most of the pottery excavated by Garstang in this area came from the erosional layers above or beneath the Middle Building, even though it was labeled with the room numbers of the Middle Building. Since there were no other Late Bronze II structures up slope of the Middle Building, even the material that covered the ruined building after its abandonment was from the earlier Bronze Age city. Since there was little in situ material in the structure, and since it was occupied only for a relatively short period of time, almost all of the pottery recovered from this area derives from the earlier Bronze Age city.
Let us now examine the exact find spots for each of the bichrome sherds illustrated in my article.
Upper left—jar (?) fragment, with the notation “J33 MIII (H.7)” written on it. J33 stands for “Jericho 1933,” MIII stands for room III of the Middle Building and (H.7) stands for room 7 of the so-called Hilani, an Iron Age structure above the Middle Building. In his excavation report, Garstang identified this sherd as “from the upper levels in Area M III.”59
Upper right—biconical jug fragment, with the notation “J.33 Ml.” This came from “below the floor of the building, therefore from lower area 57.”60 The “lower area 57” Garstang speaks of here is room 57 of the destroyed Late Bronze I structure below.
Lower left—bowl fragment, with the notation “M.III. black burnt.” This sherd was found in a burnt layer in Hilani room 7.61
Lower right—biconical jug fragment, with the notation “M1/4, ” which came from the upper level of room M.1–4.62
It is clear that these sherds came from the erosional layers above and below the Middle Building and not from in situ deposits within the building.
Bienkowski says that I am off base in claiming that the Middle Bronze III period begins at Phase 32 at Jericho, because it is not possible to identify pottery from the final phase of the Middle Bronze period. In fact, he goes so far as to say “there are no forms accepted as diagnostic of Middle Bronze III.” With this statement, Bienkowski brushes aside 30 years of research by some of the finest scholars in the field of Palestinian archaeology! Men such as Joe Seger,63 Dan Cole,64 Bill Dever65 and others have spent many years studying Middle Bronze pottery in order to isolate the features that differentiate the final phase from the middle phase.66 I will not enter into the results of their research. Suffice it to say, it is possible to recognize the pottery of the final phase of the Middle Bronze period. One can argue whether this should be labeled as a separate period or simply a later phase of the earlier period.67 This is a matter of semantics. The important point is that, from a chronological perspective, the stratigraphic levels belonging to the final phase of the Middle Bronze period can be identified. In addition to the inverted-rim bowls with beveled outer edge cited in my article,68 another important ceramic type characteristic of the Middle Bronze III period is white-slipped and burnished fine ware.69 Both the unpainted70 and painted (usually referred to as “Chocolate-on-White” ware)71 varieties already appear in Phase 32. The appearance of the flat-bottomed cooking pot with molding at the rim72 and the everted-rim cooking pot73 attest to the Middle Bronze III nature of Phases 32–36 at Jericho. Similar pottery in Shechem XVIB (temenos 6),74 the first Middle Bronze III stratum at that site, securely places Jericho Phase 32 at the beginning of the Middle Bronze III period.
Bienkowski cautions against using royal-name scarabs for dating purposes since “scarabs of well-known XVIIIth-Dynasty kings were very common, and could remain in circulation (or even be made) long after the kings themselves had died.” The scarabs in question are those of Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis III and Amenhotep III.75 I would heartily agree with Bienkowski with regard to scarabs of Tuthmosis III and Amenhotep III, but the scarab of Hatshepsut is of a different nature. Both Tuthmosis III and Amenhotep III were revered after their deaths and their scarabs served amuletic purposes. The situation with Hatshepsut, however, was not the same. After her death she was maligned, her name systematically obliterated from monuments and inscriptions.76 As a result, her scarabs were not kept or copied as good luck charms. Because of this, scarabs of Hatshepsut are extremely rare and are excellent chronological indicators. In addition, Garstang found a seal of Tuthmosis III. It is flat and inscribed on both sides with the cartouches of this pharaoh. Again, this is a rare find and can be considered a contemporary artifact. With these two being contemporary, it lends credence to the contemporaneity of the other scarabs. The scarab of Hatshepsut and the seal of Tuthmosis III, then, along with the associated scarabs of Tuthmosis III and Amenhotep III, suggest that the cemetery at Jericho was in active use throughout the 15th century B.C.E.
Bienkowski rightly points out that Garstang had previously made a sounding in Kenyon’s Area H. He then suggests that the radiocarbon sample Kenyon took from this area was from Garstang’s pit, which was contaminated with material from the Late Bronze Middle Building above. Thus the sample yielded a date in the Late Bronze rather than the Middle Bronze. This is highly unlikely. Kenyon was digging a layer of severely burned debris from the destruction of the Bronze Age city as much as 3 feet thick. Included in this debris were collapsed roof beams, a hearth surrounded by a “thick spread of charcoal” and a quantity of charred sticks.77 Bienkowski wishes us to believe that Kenyon, the epitome of the careful, accurate, scientific excavator, turned her back on this material and instead took her sample from an intrusive pit that she herself acknowledged was there!78 Personally, I would give her more credit than that. This issue could be resolved quite simply by checking Kenyon’s field records, something Bienkowski could easily do.
A review of the evidence relevant to the date of the destruction of Jericho reveals that Bienkowski’s objections do not stand up to critical assessment. Kenyon’s Phase 32 is strongly linked to Shechem XVIB, which dates to the beginning of the Middle Bronze III period. Phase 52, the destroyed Bronze Age city, on the other hand, is solidly 068correlated with the Late Bronze IB strata of Shechem XIV, Lachish Fosse Temple 1, Ashdod XVII, Hazor I, Megiddo VIII, Mevorakh XI, Michal XVI and Rabud LB4. Unless Bienkowski is prepared to rewrite the archaeological history of Palestine, he is going to have to accept the fact that Jericho was destroyed early in the Late Bronze Age, in about 1400 B.C.E.
Piotr Bienkowski has challenged the results of my analysis of the date of the destruction of the fortified Bronze Age city at Jericho, maintaining that Kathleen Kenyon’s date of about 1550 B.C.E.a is correct and should be retained.