Between 1952 and 1956, yet another excavation was carried out in the ancient city of Jericho, this time by archaeologist Kathleen Mary Kenyon. In her publication Digging up Jericho, she described how her team went about the process of excavating the biblical city, dealing with issues such as getting the permission of the land owners, and of deciding which areas of the site to dig up among others. The question of the accuracy of the Biblical account of Jericho in relation to the archaeological finds also played a major role in her book, just as it did in the case of John Garstang. Unlike professor Garstang, however, the archaeological evidence that Kenyon unearthed seemed to suggest an inconsistency between it and the biblical account of Jericho as presented to us in the book of Joshua. Why was it the case that two archaeologists investigating the same site within a span of two decades came up with two conflicting opinions concerning the historicity of the biblical text? Why was Kenyon's conclusion about the finds at Jericho not in accordance with those of John Garstang's?

Kathleen Kenyon was born on January 5th, 1906, and was the eldest daughter of Sir Frederic Kenyon, the director of the British Museum. She attended Somerville College in Oxford and eventually became the first female president of the Oxford Archaeological Society. Graduating from her studies in 1929, Kenyon teamed up with Gertrude Caton-Thompson and excavated the ruins at Zimbabwe in Southern Rhodesia. Following this excavation, she joined the staff of Sir Mortimer Wheeler and studied his careful method of stratigraphic excavation.

During World War II, she contributed to the establishment of the University of London Institute of Archaeology and also became a lecturer in Palestinian Archaeology, actively combining her seminar instruction with actual fieldwork. Soon after the war in 1951, Kenyon became the honorary director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. Excavating Jericho in the 50's produced evidence that placed the city as one of the oldest known continuously occupied human settlements in the world. Among discovering agricultural and pottery artifacts, a host of plastered human skulls also surfaced. From 1962 to 1973, she served as principle at St. Hugh's College in Oxford and in 1973 was named a Dame of the Order of the British Empire (a female equivalent of knighthood) due to her numerous accomplishments in the field of archaeology. Kenyon passed away a few years later in 1978, but not before publishing and editing a number of books.


One of these books entitled Digging up Jericho outlined Kenyon's excavation of the ancient city in detail. It talked a little about why the decision was made to investigate Jericho once more, only twenty years or so after Garstang's excavation. Work on other sites since had apparently added to the knowledge of dating pottery, and more importantly archaeological technique was "continuously evolving, as it should be in a live discipline, and [so] it seemed that further excavation might help to settle some of the questions still in dispute…(Kenyon, 33)". Also, Jericho has always been an area of interest for biblical scholars who sought to prove the historicity of the Book of Joshua. These factors resulted in the decision of the British School of Archeology in Jerusalem (of which Kenyon was director) to revisit Jericho.

Kenyon's main objective in doing so was to date the "beginning and end of ancient Jericho, [to answer] the question whether the end of the Bronze Age occupation could be ascribed to the period of Joshua, and…[to examine] the extremely early occupation revealed by Professor Garstang.(Kenyon, 43)"


Even though only twenty years had passed since Garstang's excavation, there had been several advancements in the field of archaeology, advancements which suggested a rethinking of some of Garstang's findings as well. "Work on other sites has added greatly to our knowledge of the dating of pottery, so that by 1950 it had been apparent that revision might be necessary for some of the datings suggested by Professor Garstang (Kenyon, 33)." There was also a new detailed method of removing soil from the site. According to Kenyon:
In order to interpret the history of a building or wall it is necessary to observe the layers of soil associated with it. It must be established which layer represents its floor, which the surface before it was built, which the debris that accumulated after it was destroyed. If this is accurately done, the finds, especially the pottery, in these layers can be used to date the structure. (Kenyon, 34)
Since such work needed to be performed in an accurate fashion, the ratio of trained to untrained workmen was considerably higher than it was in the earlier excavation.

Another advancement was carbon-14 dating, which was introduced by Walter Libby in the late 40's. This allowed for more accurate dating of organic materials and "reduced the need for archaeologists to rely on seriation and cross-cultural trait distributions to construct cultural chronologies(Trigger, 304)." Kenyon utilized this method extensively in her excavation, dating all the charcoal found on the various levels of the dig to a certain degree of accuracy. Radioactive dating also aided Kenyon as she made her way into the tombs at Jericho, wherein she discovered relatively well preserved artifacts of pottery.


One major contradiction between Kenyon's and Garstang's excavation was that Kenyon claimed that "no fragment of the walls of the Late Bronze Age city, that of the period within which the attack by the Israelites under Joshua must fall (Kenyon, 170)" survived. From the beginning, the inhabitants of Jericho found it necessary to enclose themselves from the outside world through the aid of walls. "The need of town walls may have been in part due to jealousies and even struggles for supremacy between the towns of Palestine itself (Kenyon, 173)." Jericho also lay in a relatively fertile land in comparison to the neighboring deserts, and thus had a lot to protect.

Garstang had previously traced a double line of wall that he considered to be the final stage of the Bronze Age walls of Jericho, and "signs of destruction by earthquake and fire were attributed to the time of the Israelite attack (Kenyon, 170)." These two walls, Kenyon claimed, actually belonged to the Early Bronze Age. Using radioactive dating and from her improved stratigraphical records, she asserted that the walls of Jericho cited in the book of Joshua actually came down sometime during the Late Bronze Age. Hence, the walls that Garstang discovered were not the same.


Kenyon argued that "we need not accept the exact chronological succession of subsequent events, nor the resultant implication of the almost immediate conquest of the rest of Palestine, in which indeed there are many discrepancies in the biblical record itself (Kenyon, 258-259)." She felt that the chronology presented to us in the Bible could not be taken literally, citing the fact that the books of the Old Testament formed a traditional history, one that was transmitted verbally. At each step, the next editor would strive to produce a coherent and continuous narrative. Verbal history was innately incomplete, only major events were remembered vividly, thus resulting in a loose and sometimes faulty chronology.

Kenyon felt that "any adjustment is possible according to what one wishes to adjust it to; if the chronology is too long, one can say that it has been inflated by making events successive which are really contemporary; if too short, one has only to say that generations have been omitted (Kenyon, 258)." She asserted that archaeology would be the decisive criterion, but "only when the archaeological time-scale has been firmly fixed (Kenyon, 258)."

Being a Christian, she did not argue that the biblical account of Jericho's destruction was entirely false. Instead, she tried to explain her finds. For example, according to her the famed walls of Jericho could have collapsed due to an earthquake, which her excavation showed seemed to have destroyed a number of the earlier walls. "It would have been very natural for the Israelites to have regarded such a visitation as divine intervention...(Kenyon, 262)"

She believed that archaeology was needed to prove the historicity of the Bible; more importantly, that archaeology was needed to aid us in the interpretation of the "older parts of the Old Testament, which from the nature of their sources,... cannot be read as a straightforward record (Kenyon, 266)."