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3-30-12 ABR Jericho

Dating Jericho’s Destruction: Bienkowski is Wrong on All Counts

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EXCERPT In 1990, Dr. Bryant Wood published his well known article in Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) on the destruction of Jericho and its correlation with the Biblical account. In the Sep./Oct. 1990 issue of BAR, Piotr Bienkowski wrote an article disputing Dr. Wood’s conclusions. The following article engages with Bienkowski’s criticisms, providing the reader with an in-depth analysis of some of the work done at Jericho, and demonstrating Dr. Wood’s expertise and thorough familiarity with the evidence. This article provides some additional data not published in Dr. Wood’s first BAR article, thus adding to the mountain of evidence demonstrating that Jericho was destroyed around 1400 B.C., the same time the Bible records that the events of Joshua 3-6 took place.

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. 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 as 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….

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