Supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs    
Tell es-Sultan/Jericho
Season 2016

0. Introduction

The twelfth season of archaeological activities at Tell es-Sultan/ancient Jericho, in Palestine, carried out by Rome "La Sapienza" University and the Palestinian Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage (MOTA-DACH), took place in November 2016 and was supported by the former Institutions and by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The 2016 season at Tell es-Sultan was basically aimed at site maintenance, monuments protection, and further study of the site in all periods. Major interventions were carried out as illustrated below:
1. further study of the site in all periods through archaeological investigations in Areas A, B, B West, G, P and S (§ 1);
2. update of the site map with indication of all archaeological expeditions works (see the map);
3. continuation of site rehabilitation through systematic restorations of the EB IIIB (Sultan IIIc2, 2500-2350 BC) public building in Area G, and restoration tests on MB I-II (Sultan IVa-b, 1900-1650 BC) Tower A1 in Area A (§ 2);
4. tourist enhancement of the site through implementation of visitors' paths and setting of explanatory panels with updated information (§ 3).

An important goal of the twelfth season was the salvage excavations of an Early and Middle Bronze Age necropolis at Jebel Daher, in the Bethlehem district (§ 4).

1. Archaeological investigations in Areas A, B, B West, G, P and S

In 2016 excavations at Tell es-Sultan were carried out in six different areas: Area A, where investigations focused on MB I-II (Sultan IVa-b, 1900-1650 BC) stratigraphy west of Tower A1 and southern foot of the tell (§ 1.1); Area B and B-West, where the study of the building technique of the EB IIIA City-Walls continued in the light of the discovery of the South Gate (§ 1.2); Area G, on the eastern slope of the Spring Hill, where the excavation of the two superimposed palaces, the Early Bronze III Palace G, and the Middle Bronze II-III "Hyksos Palace" was carried on (§ 1.3); Area P, where remains of a monumental structure were uncovered, probably a temple rising on the south-west summit of the Spring Hill (§ 1.4); Area S, re-examined after the salvage works carried out in 2010 (§ 1.5).

1.1. Area A: the southern foot of the tell in the Middle Bronze I-II (2000-1650 BC)

Works in Area A, at the southern foot of the tell, were focused on further investigation of MB I-II (Sultan IVb1-2) Tower A1, the huge rectangular tower with mudbrick walls upon an orthostates foundation erected in the Lower City at the beginning of the Middle Bronze I (2000-1800 BC).
The monumental architecture of Tower A1 has been reconstructed on the basis of the analysis of its structure. It had at least four storey. The ground floor, a basement entered from above through a ladder, was 2.5 m high, while the main floor was 3.2 m high, with at least two more storeys 2.-2.2 m each up to a reconstructed height of around 10 m. Wooden (poplar) beams 0.26 m thick and 3 m long were inserted into the mudbrick masonry of the tower to support the ceilings of each storey. The walls widths were reduced of a two lines of bricks (0.72 m) on each storey. The tower was connected with the East Tower, excavated by Garstang at the foot of the Spring Hill by the city-wall (Wall 7), running at the foot the tell on its southern and eastern sides and excavated by the Italian-Palestinian Expedition in Area D. The MB city-gate was probably located in between the two towers.
After the destruction occurred at the end of MB I, well documented in stratigraphy in Area A. During Middle Bronze II, a group of houses grew up against the eastern side of the Tower showing that Wall 7 had become an inner fortification line, and a dwelling quarter occupied the southern Lower City.

1.2. Area B and B-West: the Inner and Outer EB IIIA (2700-2500 BC) City-Walls

Works in Area B & B-West were again concentrated on the documentation of the Main Inner Wall (W.2) of the double line of the EB IIIA (Sultan IIIc1, 2700-2500 BC) fortification system, and its building technique was thoroughly illustrated. This major structure was 4-4.2 m wide, while the Outer Wall 2.5 m; the walls were made of big 60 x 40 cm reddish-brown bricks set upon a foundation consisting of two-to-six courses of stones. As a response to earthquake hazard, wooden beams and reeds mats were embedded into mud-brickswalls to strengthen their inner cohesion and favor transpiration. In between the two walls, there were blind rooms and walkways, some of them filled up with white powdered limestone, as the blind room uncovered in 2009. The Main Inner Wall was refurbished several times, but it underwent only one major reconstruction indicated by a stones lined foundation in Early Bronze IIIB (2500-2300 BC).
The main EB IIIA gate was opened in the Main Inner Wall and uncovered in Area B. South Gate (L.1800) was a 2 m wide and 4.5 m long passageway, introducing into a walkway in between the Inner and Outer Walls, approached from the east. The eastern and western doorjambs were identifiable thanks to the carbonized remains of two wooden beams (each one approximately 0.2 m wide) set into the wall on both sides of the passage. A third better preserved beam was exposed upon floor L.1616 inside the passage, laid transversal to the gate, apparently the gate lintel (W.1619), measuring 2.4 m long, and 0.2 m wide (the wood was tamarisk [Tamarix sp.]). Gate L.1800 was obliterated at the end of EB IIIA, after a dramatic collapse accompanied by a fierce fire. It was blocked by walls on the outer and inner sides (the latter nowadays eroded), while, inside it, collapsed structures were incorporated in the last reconstruction of the Inner City Wall (Wall 1). EB IIIB Building B1 was, then, erected abutting against the inner face of the latter. It seems, thus, probable that a new gate was opened further to the east possibly connecting directly the spring with the north-south road crossing the site.

1.3. Area G: the EB IIIB (2500-2300 BC) Palace G and the MB II-III (1800-1550 BC) "Hyksos Palace" on the Spring Hill

Archaeological excavations on the eastern slope of the Spring Hill, overlooking the irrigated and densely cultivated oasis, allowed to expose further portions of the palatial buildings erected during the Early and Middle Bronze Age. The EB III palace, called Palace G, was a building with mudbrick walls up to 2 m wide, erected upon three terrace. The main entrance was from the south, leading into a forecourt and to a central hall. It had at least three storeys, as several staircases testify to. The central hall of the building hosted a raised podium built against its northern wall, flanked by two columns; in the middle was a fireplace -a quite common device in such kind of palatial reception suites. In Middle Bronze II a new palatial building was erected on the Spring Hill, razing the remains of EB IV dwellings, and overlying the regularized ruins of the EB III palace. The earlier MB II structures of the so-called "Hyksos Palace" was uncovered by the Italian-Palestinian Expedition in the western and eastern terraces of Area G. The central part of the palace, connecting the western and southern wings previously excavated by J. Garstang and K. Kenyon, was identified by the Italian-Palestinian Expedition. This allowed to reconstruct the plan of the building, which at a reduced scale, is similar to several coeval buildings of Syria-Palestine.

1.4. Area P: the MB II-III (1800-1550 BC) Temple P

Works in Area P, on the south-western summit of the Spring Hill were focused on further investigations of the remains of a monumental building uncovered in 2012. The plan, together with the orientation of the structure, allowed the identification of this building as the major temple of the Middle Bronze II-III city. The foundations of the building were extremely eroded, however it was possible to reconstruct its rectangular plan (14 x 10 m), with the main entrance looking east.
Temple P was a typical Middle Bronze Age temple, the so-called Migdol Temple, a rectangular building with a single hall, characterized by very high and thick walls. A very close example was the MB temple in Tell Balata/Shechem, erected just inside the gate to the Upper City.

1.5. Area S: the spring of 'Ain es-Sultan

Restoration and refurbishing activities carried out by the Ariha Municipality in the area of the Spring ('Ain es-Sultan) in 2012 involved the Ottoman Pool and the nearby mills. Some impressive features were uncovered and documented, and ceramic material from the Bronze Age onward was recovered. Survey activities was conducted by the Italian-Palestinian Expedition in the Spring area and revealed important features and hydraulic installations from the Herodian to the Ottoman period, including a monumental vaulted channel, as well as remains of structures testifying the continuous occupation of the area supplied by the Spring of 'Ain es-Sultan from the Prehistoric up to the modern times.
In 2016 Italian-Palestinian excavations in the Spring Area also demonstrated that the PPN town extended to the east in the area around the spring, showing that a basic role was played by the spring of 'Ain es-Sultan since to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic up to the Iron Age. The control over water distribution implied centrally administrated intensive agriculture in the oasis, and allowed the accumulation of agricultural surplus.

2. Restoration works in Area A (Tower A1) and Area G (Palace G) at Tell es-Sultan

In 2016 season several intervention of restoration, and tourist enhancement were carried on. The major effort was performed in Area A, where Tower A1 were restored with traditional technique of plastered mudbricks. Also Palace G was restored, by coating original mudbricks with traditional mud and straw plaster and protecting walls bottoms with courses of new mudbricks. Restorations in Palace G were focused on the terrace walls and transversal walls of the second storey.

3. Tourist enhancement of Tell es-Sultan

The Archaeological Park of Tell es-Sultan has been further implemented during the twelfth season (2016), with its inclusion within the Archaeological Park of the Jericho Oasis (JOAP).
Tourist enhancement of the site continued by refurbishing paths on the site and the explanatory panels, with the addition of QR codes. Moreover, the protection of the Jericho cultural heritage was also pursued by filing ancient items from archaeological contexts spread over collections in Museums and other institutions all over the world. Information are gathered in the Jericho Virtual Museum site, which will be a tool also for people visiting Tell es-Sultan.

4. The salvage excavation in the necropolis of Jebel Dhaher (Bethlehem)

In 2016 season, following a request by the MOTA-DACH, the Italian-Palestinian Expedition was engaged in a salvage intervention in the site of Jebel Dhaher, located in the quarter of the new Suq of Bethlehem at Ahlia University. In the site of Jebel Dhaher a portion of a Early Bronze IV-Middle Bronze Age necropolis was uncovered following the accidental retrieval of some tombs. Six shaft tombs were excavated and several noticeable items were recovered and documented.


Nigro, L. 2003 "Tell es-Sultan in the Early Bronze Age IV (2300-2000 BC). Settlement vs Necropolis - A Stratigraphic Periodization", in CMAO IX (2003), pp. 121-158.

2005 Tell es-Sultan/Gerico alle soglie della prima urbanizzazione: il villaggio e la necropoli del Bronzo Antico I (3300-3000 a.C.) (= Rome «La Sapienza» Studies on the Archaeology of Palestine & Transjordan, 1), Roma 2005.

2006a "Results of the Italian-Palestinian Expedition to Tell es-Sultan: at the Dawn of Urbanization in Palestine", in L. Nigro - H. Taha (eds.) 2006, pp. 1-40.

2006b "Sulle mura di Gerico. Le fortificazioni di Tell es-Sultan come indicatori della nascita e dello sviluppo della prima città di Gerico nel III millennio BC", in F. Baffi - R. Dolce - S. Mazzoni - F. Pinnock (eds.), Ina Kibrāt Erbetti. Studi di Archeologi orientale dedicati a Paolo Matthiae, Roma 2006, pp. 349-397.

2007-2008 "Le tombe costruite sulla "Spring Hill" e i Signori di Gerico nel II millennio a.C.", in G. Bartoloni - G. Benedettini (eds.), Sepolti tra i vivi. Evidenza ed interpretazione di contesti funerari in abitato. Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi, Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza", 26-29 Aprile 2006 (= Scienze dell'Antichità 14/1), Roma 2007-2008, pp. 277-307.

2009a "Bevor die Posaunen erklangen", in Antike Welt 2009/6, pp. 45-53.

2009b "The Built Tombs on the Spring Hill and The Palace of the Lords of Jericho ('dmr Rha) in the Middle Bronze Age", in J.D. Schloen (ed.), Exploring the longue durée. Essays in Honor of Lawrence E. Stager, Winona Lake, In. 2009, pp. 361-376.

2009c "When the Walls Tumble Down. Jericho: Rise and Collapse of an Early Bronze Age Palestinian City", in Scienze dell'Antichità 15 (2009), pp. 173-192.

2009d "Khirbet Kerak Ware at Jericho and the EB III Change in Palestine", in L. Petit - E. Kaptijn (eds.), A Timeless Vale. Archaeological and related essays on the Jordan Valley in honour of Gerrit van der Kooij on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday (= Archaeological Studies Leiden University 19), Leiden 2009, pp. 69-83.

2010a Tell es-Sultan/Jericho in the Early Bronze II (3000-2700 BC): the rise of an early Palestinian city. A synthesis of the results of four archaeological expeditions (= Rome «La Sapienza» Studies on the Archaeology of Palestine & Transjordan, 5), Rome 2010.

2010b "Tell es-Sultan/Jericho and the Origins of Urbanization in the Lower Jordan Valley: Results of Recent Archaeological Researches", in P. Matthiae et al. (eds.), 6 ICAANE. Proceedings of the 6th International Congress of the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. 5 May - 10 May 2008, "Sapienza", Università di Roma, Roma 2010, Vol. 2, pp. 459-481.

2013 "Jericho", in D.M. Master (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Archaeology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, vol. II, pp. 1-8.

2014a "The Archaeology of Collapse and Resilience: Tell es-Sultan/ancient Jericho as a Case Study", in L. Nigro (ed.), Overcoming Catastrophes. Essays on disastrous agents characterization and resilience strategies in pre-classical Southern Levant (Rome «La Sapienza» Studies on The Archaeology of Palestine And Transjordan, 11), pp. 55-85, Rome: Rome «La Sapienza» Expedition to Palestine & Jordan.

2014b "Aside the Spring: Tell es-Sultan/Ancient Jericho: the Tale of an Early City and Water Control in Ancient Palestine", in T. Tvedt - T. Oestigaard (eds.), A History of Water. Series III. Volume 1: Water and Urbanization, pp. 25-51.

2016 "Tell es-Sultan 2015. A Pilot Project for Archaeology in Palestine", in Near Eastern Archaeology 79:1 (2016), pp. 4-17.

2017 "The End of the Early Bronze Age in the Southern Levant. Urban Crisis and Collapse seen from two 3rd Millennium BC-cities: Tell es-Sultan/Jericho and Khirbet al-Batrawy", in T. Gunningham - J. Driessen (eds.), Crisis to Collapse. The Archaeology of Social Breakdown (AEGIS 11), pp. 149-172.

Nigro, L. - Taha, H.

2009 "Renewed Excavations and Restorations at Tell es-Sultan/Ancient Jericho. Fifth Season - March-April 2009", in Scienze dell'Antichità 15 (2009), pp. 731-744.

Nigro, L. - Sala, M. - Taha, H. - Yassine, J.

2011 "The Early Bronze Age Palace and Fortifications at Tell es-Sultan/Jericho. The 6th - 7th seasons (2010-2011) by Rome "La Sapienza" University and the Palestinian MOTA-DACH", in Scienze dell'Antichità 17 (2011), pp. 185-211.

Nigro, L. - Taha, H. (eds.)

2006 Tell es-Sultan/Jericho in the Context of the Jordan Valley: Site Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development. Proceedings of the International Workshop Held in Ariha 7th - 11th February 2005 by the Palestinian Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage - Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, UNESCO Office - Ramallah, Rome "La Sapienza" University (Rome «La Sapienza» Studies on the Archaeology of Palestine & Transjordan, 2), Rome 2006.

Nigro, L. - Sala, M. - Taha, H. (eds.)

2011 Archaeological Heritage in the Jericho Oasis. A systematic catalogue of archaeological sites for the sake of their protection and cultural valorization (= Rome «La Sapienza» Studies on the Archaeology of Palestine & Transjordan, 7), Rome 2011.