Supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs    
Tell es-Sultan/Jericho
Season 2011
TELL ES-SULTAN/JERICHO - ARIHA (Palestinian National Authority) Preliminary Report on the 7th Season of
Archaeological Investigations and Restorations at Tell es-Sultan/Jericho by Rome "La Sapienza" University
and the Palestinian MOTA-DACH - March 2011

Lorenzo Nigro - Hamdan Taha


0. Introduction

The seventh season of archaeological activities at Tell es-Sultan/ancient Jericho (fig. 1), in Palestine, carried out by Rome "La Sapienza" University and the Palestinian Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage (MOTA - DACH), took place in March 2011 and was supported by the former Institutions and by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The action plan for this season included: 1. tourist cultural enhancement of the site through the creation of an interpretation centre at the entrance of the site and the realization of videos (§ 1); 2. site rehabilitation through systematic restorations of the EB IIIB (Sultan IIIc2, 2500-2350 BC) public building in Area G, and protection of MB I-II (Sultan IVa-b, 1900-1650 BC) Tower A1 and Iron Age IIC installations discovered in Area A (§ 2); 3. further study of the site in all periods through archaeological investigations (§§ 3-6).

As regards the latter point, excavations were carried out in four different areas: Area A, where investigations focused on MB I-II (Sultan IVa-b, 1900-1650 BC) stratigraphy, MB III (Sultan IVc, 1650-1550 BC) Cyclopean Wall W.4 and connected rampart; and on an Iron Age IIC (Sultan VIc, late 8th - 7th century BC) installations (§ 3); Area B, with the exploration of the South Gate through EB IIIA (Sultan IIIc1, 2700-2500 BC) Inner City-Wall (§ 4); Area E, with further investigations on MB II (Sultan IVb, 1800-1650 BC) Curvilinear Stone Structure and connected structures (§ 5); Area G, on the eastern slope of the Spring Hill, where a further extension of EB IIIB (Sultan IIIc2, 2500-2350 BC) Palace G was uncovered (§ 6).

1. Palestinian Culture Protection: Jericho, 10,000 years of History of Humankind

In October 10th 2010 the city of Ariha celebrated 10,000 years of life. During this symbolic event Tell es-Sultan/ancient Jericho was the focus of worldwide culture attention, illustrating, through its long lasting history, written into superimposed layers of earth disentangled by the generous work of generations of archaeologists, some decisive achievements of Humankind. Since 1997, thanks to the generosity and the open vision of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of the Palestinian National Authority, Rome "La Sapienza" University and the Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage of the former Institution resumed this endeavour, which they are carrying on successfully in the present years. The hope is that this commitment may continue, being the site of Tell es-Sultan enlisted within the World Heritage by UNESCO at n. 2, after Bethlehm Jesus' Birthplace, for the West Bank, and may bring about a scientifically correct information on the site itself and its monuments. In this perspective, the site was given in 2011 of a new Interpretation Centre by the entrance, funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, where an introductory film is projected (this was also realized by the MOTA-DACH and JICA with the cooperation of the Expedition); furthermore, in the Centre four carefully restored pithoi and storage jars from Palace G were set on exhibit (figs. 2-3).

2. Restorations of EB IIIB (Sultan IIIc2, 2500-2350 BC) Palace in Area G

Tell es-Sultan is up today the most visited Archaeological Park of Palestine. Up to four hundred thousand people visit it a year, and the new tourist path with illustrative panels set up in year 2009 by the Italian-Palestinian Expedition made it readable to the general public. It, however, deserves continuous maintenance, and during the 2011 season several interventions of cleaning (in Area A, B, B-West, E, and in Kenyon's Trench II), restoration (Area G) and tourist enhancement were carried on. The major effort was carried out in Palace G on the Spring Hill, where the building structures were restored with traditional technique of plastered mudbricks (figs. 4-5). This allows a completely new reading of this monument, which was one of the main buildings erected in the site.

3. Area A: MB I-II (Sultan IVa-b, 1900-1650 BC) stratigraphic sequence, MB III (Sultan IVc, 1650-1550 BC) Cyclopean Wall and rampart, Iron Age IIC (Sultan VIc) house and installations

The investigation of the urban layout and related fortifications of Sultan IV (MB I-III, 1900-1550 BC) city continued in 2011 by further digging the open space west of Tower A1 (Marchetti - Nigro 1998, 124-135; 2000, 199-207; Nigro 2006a, 26, 33; Nigro - Taha 2009, 731-734), and the nearby Cyclopean Wall W.4 supporting the MB III rampart (Marchetti - Nigro 1998, 135-154; 2000, 217-218; Nigro 2006a, 34-35; Nigro - Taha 2009, 734), in squares AnIV12, AoIV12, ApIV12 + ApIV13 (fig. 6).

3.1. The stratigraphic sequence in the open space west of MB IB-II (Sultan IVa-b) Tower A1

The history of Middle Bronze Tell es-Sultan was reconstructed on the basis of the impressive and monumental stratigraphy of adjacent Areas A and E (§ 3). As regards Area A, in the court west of the Tower, an articulated stratigraphic sequence was detected, from MBI leveling operation (phase 5e, F.1761) and Tower A1 foundation trench P.1687 (phase 5d), dating back towards the beginning of 19th century BC, to the first floor of the court (L.1690 + L.1670; Sultan IVa2, 1900-1800 BC), up to a later MB II floor (L.1680 + L.1660; Sultan IVb, 1800-1650 BC; Nigro - Taha 2009, 731-734). The earliest MB IB floor L.1690 + L.1670 was covered by a destruction and collapse stratum including ashes and limestone and flint chops (F.1689), rubble with grey-pinkish ash inside (F.1658), and a bricky reddish-pale brown layer (F.1652 + F.1693), marking the end of earliest phase of use of the building (Sultan IVa, 1900-1800 BC). Courtyard floors L.1680 + L.1660 (a beaten earth paving with flint fragments and small pebbles) accompanies the MB II reconstruction of Tower A1 (with reparations and additions), which ended in a new destruction, illustrated by a rubble filling with ashes (F.1688). Just upon it, a heap of collapsed bricks (F.1685 = F.23) probably derives from the same event, although it was also hypothesized that it might represent a second collapse during MB II, in connection with a later reuse of the area, to which a floor (L.500, the lowest layer exposed in 1999), was related. F.1688 was obliterated by a light sandy reddish-brown layer (F.1774 = F.16), later covered by the rubble filling of Sultan IVc rampart (F.1682+F.1686 = F.1674 of 2009 = F.13; MB III; Phase 3) and cut through by Cyclopean Wall W.4 foundation trench P.1677. During the seventh season (2011), F.1774 and F.1685 were further excavated, retrieving a distinct series of ceramic shapes dating from MB IB to MB II.

3.2. Plunder Pit P.1683 and its filling F.1684

In squares AnIV12 and AoIV12, under the topsoil (F.1664) and erosion (F.1668, F.1681, F.1794) layers, Sellin and Watzinger's trench (P.1669, P.1779), along the outer crest of Wall 4, was identified and excavated (Sellin - Watzinger 1913, 56-57, figs. 33, 35:2, plan I, squares M3, 4); it had cut through a layer of collapsed reddish-brown mudbricks (F.1787), possibly belonging to underlying MB II structures. In squares ApIV12 + 13, the almost square cut (5 x 4 m) at least 5 m deep of plunder pit P.1683 was emptied from dust and dump (as well as from several limestone boulders collapsed from the top of Wall W.4). This pit was still open at the time of the Austro-German expedition of 1907-1909, since it appears in their general plan (Sellin - Watzinger 1913, plan I, squares 3M+N). It had obliterated all strata around 8 m west of the Tower down to elevation -0.8 m. It was perhaps originated by the extraction of huge blocks from MB III Cyclopean Wall W.4, apparently before the Austro-German Expedition, when it was refilled with mixed materials (rubble, limestone blocks, etc. = F.1684). Among various finds of all periods, a distinguished sea-shell was found in the pit filling (TS.11.A.23; fig. 7), possibly deriving from Tower A1 collapsed superstructure (strata F.1774 and F.1685).

3.3. The Iron IIC (Sultan VIc, late 8th - 7th century BC) installations

In squares AmIV12 + AnIV12, a NW-SE cut (P.1793) had interrupted the MB sequence at the south-western foot of the tell; it was filled up with fine gravel in a pinkish-light brown sandy soil (F.1792). Upon this filling, two walls (W.1767, W.1769) belonging to a roughly a rectangular unit (L.1770), built up with whitish mudbricks, were brought to light. The unit hosted a series of installations (fig. 8): three circular bins with flat base made of unbaked clay (T.1775, T.1777, T.1783, around 0,50-0,60 m of diameter) sunk into the floor for a depth of around 35 cm, apparently devoted to food storage or preparation; just aside them to the west, there was a semicircular installation, lined with radial bricks (W.1785), with an outer floor of compacted beaten earth connected to it (L.1780; fig. 9a-b).

Both within bin T.1775 and T.1783, two spherical weights of unbaked clay were found on top of the filling. Inside T.1775 a limestone pommel/spindle whorl was found, identical to another one retrieved in 2010. Objects found in room L.1770, thus, include: two pommels/spindle whorls (TS.11.A.73; TS.11.A.131), a quadruped clay figurine with a reddish wash (TS.10.A.126), and the leg of a second one (TS.10.A.127).

Moreover, a distinguished set of pottery from the circular installations within the room illustrates an advanced horizon of Palestinian Iron II, that is Iron IIC (Sultan VIc), with two carinated bowls, one with a Red Slip band inside the rim, four Red-Slip bowls, a cooking pot, and a Red-Slip juglet (fig. 10).

Hence, Unit L.1770 can be confidently considered part of the Iron Age settlement, arisen on Tell es-Sultan in the 10th-9th century BC on the Spring Hill, where it was largely excavated by the Austro-German Expedition in 1907-1909, and then spread in the late 8th -7th century BC on the slopes of the tell, where it was excavated by KM. Kenyon at the foot of Trench I, Trench II and Trench III (here Iron IIC buildings were terraced back into the probably considerably eroded MB III rampart; Kenyon 1981, 111-113, pl. 232; 171-173, pl. 255c; 219). The Iron Age IIC unit in Area A is perhaps a productive installation at the household level (fig. 11).

4. Area B: the South Gate in EB IIIA (Sultan IIIc1) double line of fortifications

Excavations in Area B and B-West were basically concentrated on the study of Sultan IIIc1 (EB IIIA, 2700-2500 BC) Inner City-Wall. A front-view of Gate L.1800 (fig. 12), identified in the sixth season (2010), was drawn, showing collapsed bricks (F.1615) within it, and details of the architecture, as well as underlying floor L.1616.

The gate lintels were cleaned and further investigated, showing the carbonized remains of two beams (approximately 0.2 m wide) on both sides of the passage parallel to it (respectively W.1617 to the east, and W.1618 to the west). A third better preserved beam (W.1619) was exposed upon floor L.1616, laid transversal to the gate, apparently belonged the ceilings of the gate passage. Charcoals from it were sampled and measured, showing a width of around 0.15 m, and a length of around 2.4 m (figs. 13-15).

The overall plan of the gate can be reconstructed matching Kenyon's plans of Trench III. In between the Sultan IIIc1 (EB IIIA) Inner Wall (W.2, Kenyon's Wall NFB) and Outer Wall (Kenyon's Wall NFD; Kenyon 1981, 209-212), a transversal wall (NFF) connecting the two parallel defensive lines blocked the way to the west (Kenyon 1981, pl. 269c). This suggests that the passage through the Outer Wall was further to the east, and then that the gate pathway climbed the hill NE-SW. The South Gate, thus, probably consisted of a bent-axis passageway exploiting for a stretch the gap inside the double-line fortification.
Gate L.1800 was obliterated at the end of EB IIIA (Sultan IIIc1) period, after a dramatic collapse accompanied by a fierce fire. Collapsed structures were incorporated in the last reconstruction of the Inner City Wall in Sultan IIIc2 (EB IIIB) period (Wall 1: Marchetti - Nigro 1998, 36-39, figs. 1:1, 1:15), when Building B1 was erected abutting against the inner face of the latter (Marchetti - Nigro 1998, 24-25, 39-49; 2000, 130-138; Nigro 2006a, 18-20). This suggests that a new gate was opened, presumably eastwards, with a direct access, nearby the spring and the road approaching the site from the south.

5. Area E: MB II (Sultan IVb, 1800-1650 BC) Curvilinear Stone Structure and connected features

Archaeological investigations in Area E, northwest of Area A (fig. 16), were concentrated during the seventh season (2011) on the continuation of the exploration of the Curvilinear Stone Structure, a stone wall 1.1-1.7 m wide, consisting of several juxtaposed stretches, preserved with a varying elevation of 1.5 to 3 m (Nigro - Taha 2009, 735-737).

A further prosecution of the wall was uncovered in squares AlIV7 + AiIV7 (eastern half), where a new stretch of the CSS was identified (W.1824) turning to the north, with an orientation SSE-NNW; wall W.1824 was made of large limestone boulders around 0.4 x 0.5 m. In AiIV7/AlIV7 it exhibited a width of around 1.7 m. In its central part, this structure had been cut through by a plunder pit (P.1821), reaching its lower courses. At the foot of the wall, in what seems a collapse bricky layer (F.1823), the handle of a fine limestone jar (TS.11.E.89) and a double handled small jar of yellowish-brown colour were found (TS.11.E.1823/1; fig. 17).

In the centre of the square AlIV7, the inner curtain wall of W.274 + W.1824 was uncovered collapsed towards the east, i.e. its inner side, upon a preexisting rectangular unit (L.1740), delimited by two walls (figs. 18-19): the western one (W.1747), NW-SE oriented, consisted of a row of medium size rectangular block around 0.4 m wide and 0.55 m long (one with a circular depression); the northern one (W.1749), conversely, was made of irregular stones, with an inner second line of elongated stones; the eastern wall was, instead, was demolished by another plunder pit (P.1822), cut through the rubble filling of the MB III rampart (F.1745). This filling was excavated also in square AmIV8 (F.1817), with the aim of reaching MB layers visible below it, apparently related with the use of the CSS. In this filling, a fragment of an Egyptian blue object (TS.11.G.87) was retrieved, presumably a stray find from underlying layers.

6. Area G: MB II-III (Sultan IVb-c, 1800-1550 BC) Garstang's "Hyksos Palace" remains and EB IIIB (Sultan IIIc2, 2500-2350 BC) Palace G: plans and Spring Hill phasing

During the seventh season (2011), the exploration of the public building called Palace G (Marchetti 2003, 300-303, fig. 4; Nigro 2006a, 20-22, figs. 29-32; 2009a, 50, fig. 6), on the eastern slope of the Spring Hill (fig. 20), resumed in year 2010, was carried on by widening the excavated area towards the north (in square BbIII7), the south (in squares BcIII9 and BdIII9), as well as towards the east, in squares BcIII7+8 and squares column BdIII7, 8 and 9. Uppermost layers were uniquely constituted by superimposed dumps of Garstang's (F.1154) and Kenyon's (F.1152) excavations, the former one consisting of reddish-brown friable soil with a large quantity of big stones and blocks inside (probably deriving from the dismantling by J. Garstang of Iron II Hilani and Late Bronze II Middle Building; Garstang 1934, 102-104, pls. XIII-XV), the latter one, instead, mainly consisting of a soft dark grey ashy soil, with small stones and rubble clusters.

6.1. Middle Bronze II-III (Sultan IVb-c) Palace foundation walls W.633 and W.1175

In squares BcIII8 + BcIII9 + BdIII8 + BdIII9, the exploration of the EB IIIB (Sultan IIIc2) palace also involved structures belonging to later strata of occupation. Investigations started from BdIII9, where wall W.633, a major structure supporting the Middle Bronze II palace of Jericho (Marchetti 2003, 299, 312-316; Nigro 2006a, 25; 2009b, 361-362, figs. 6-7, 9), was found connected with a perpendicular wall, called W.1175, running east-west. Both structures, thus, belonged to the same building, the MB II palace already excavated by previous expeditions (Garstang 1933, 41; 1934, 99-101, 105, pl. XV (nn. 80, 81); Garstang - Garstang 1948, 99-101, fig. 4). Underneath, there was a leveling layer (F.1178), probably the filling of W.633 foundation trench (P.959).

6.2. EB IV (Sultan IIId) installations

Further to the west in BcIII8, a series of structures were erected upon the eroded surface of EB IIIB wall W.637. Most noticeable are a double-lined stone wall, W.1173 (elev. 11.80 m), with the associated filling F.1202, attributed to Sultan IIId2 (EB IVB) period, and, at a lower elevation (elev. 11.20 m), wall W.1179, consisting of a single row of unhewn stones, with associated flooring L.1198, where part of a tannur (T.1199) was preserved; a second oven (T.1193), burnt and collapsed southwards (F.1188) was connected to the same features; all these installations were ascribed to Sultan IIId1 (EBIVA) period, as also indicated by ceramic finds (figs. 21a-b, 22).

6.3. EB IIIB (Sultan IIIc2) Palace G

Courtyard L.1200

Coming back to the Sultan IIIc2 (EB IIIB) palace (fig. 23), one basic achievement of the 2011 season was the complete restoration of the main east-west wall of the palace, Wall W.616, a structure 1.2 m wide and 12 m long. The structure was built on three steps: the upper terrace, corresponding to rooms L.620 and L.621; the middle terrace, hosting hall L.644 and room L.1160, and the lower terrace, brought to light in 2011, where it was called wall W.1171. For this reason wall W.616 + W.1171 can be considered one of the main structures of the palace. A door (L.1150), closed in last phase of use of the building, opened in the SW corner of hall L.644 through wall W.616 towards an open space located south of it. The latter, called Courtyard L.1200, possibly connected the entrance wing of the palace with its central sector.

Room L.621: architectural phasing

In the uppermost terrace of the Palace, the exploration of room L.621 was completed, bringing to light its western side (W.624), preserved with an height of more than 1 m. A second wall (W.1191), parallel to wall W.624 and made of large rectangular bricks (0.56 x 0.28 m), occupied the north-western corner of the room, apparently in connection with ramp W.627 (fig. 24); both structures supported a wooden staircase leading to the upper floor, built in the last phase of use of the room. Ramp W.627 was in fact erected just over a rectangular slab (W.1197), possibly the base for a wooden post; wall W.1191, was indeed built on two superimposed courses of bricks, with its base at the same elevation of the ramp. A further structure belonging to the earliest phase of use of the room was discovered to the north, consisting of a low wall (W.1195), possibly the border of a podium or another installation.

Room L.1160: architectural phasing

The room to the east of L.621, and north of L.644, was further investigated in 2011, clarifying that buttress W.1165 protruding from the eastern side of wall W.1157 belonged to the last reconstruction of the building.

Wall 637 and the lower terrace of the palace

Excavations in BdIII7, 8 and 9, on the lower terrace of Palace G, allowed to identify the eastern side of main terrace-wall W.637, still preserved in the former two squares with a 2 cm thick yellowish plaster on its eastern side (W.1183), though later occupation of the area and modern excavations had heavily cut through this point of the eastern slope of the Spring Hill. The overall width of wall W.637, thus, turned out to be 2.5 m, covering an elevation step of around 1.2 m. At its northern extremity plaster W.1183 turned eastwards, indicating the presence of a transversal wall (W.1185), around 0.8 m thick, parallel to walls HH and HN excavated by Kenyon in the nearby square HII (Kenyon 1981, 344-346, pl. 327a-b). These structures possibly delimited long rooms stretching east-west.

A small portion of the lowest room (L.1190) so far reached of the palace on the Spring Hill slope was exposed, with a collapse layer inside (F.1194), including three bricks and some small stones. The floor of room L.1190 - apparently 7.7 m long on its north-south major axis -, consisted of compacted clayish whitish layer, including limestone grits. In the layer over it (a quite compact layer of brownish-red soil, F.1196) a copper dagger was found (TS.G.11.63), in a good preservation state, albeit broken roughly at the mid of the blade. The tang of the weapon showed the impression and some small remains of the wooden handle, fixed by means of three rivets, one of which also bound a copper strip, enrolled on the handle and covered by a leather strip.

Finally, the study of the pottery assemblage from hall L.644 was further carried on in the seventh season, filing a series of jugs and juglets of different types, typical of the palatial context (fig. 25).

The continuation of the exploration of Palace G during this season allowed to produce a more complete plan and architectural section of the building, which extended at least on three different terraces on the eastern slope of the Spring Hill. The connection with previous excavation plans to the north-west (in Sellin and Watzinger's squares 5G-H; Sellin - Watzinger 1913, 39-42, figs. 18-20) and in Kenyon's square HII (see above note 45), allow to draw out an overall plan of the palace, which was the seat of the rulers of Jericho in the third quarter of the 3rd millennium BC. Its monumental architecture and special finds, such as carefully executed pithoi and storage jars, seal impressions, ceremonial vessels, as well as the copper dagger, further corroborate this identification (for a general overview on Early Bronze Age palatial architecture in Palestine see Nigro 1994, 1-27).

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