We all know the words of the old spiritual: “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a-tumblin’ down.” According to the Biblical account of the conquest of Jericho, Joshua and his troops marched around the city once a day for six days; on the seventh day they marched around it seven times, and on the seventh circuit they blew their horns and shouted. “When the people heard the sound of the horns, the people shouted a mighty shout, and the walls fell down” (Joshua 6:20). This is a climactic moment in the Israelite conquest of Canaan. Once the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, the other cities fell like a row of dominoes.
But did it really happen? This has been a vexed question in the history of Biblical archaeology. According to the best interpretations of the archaeological evidence, Jericho was destroyed around 1550 B.C.E.1 and was not settled again until after 1000 B.C.E.a But the emergence of Israel dates to around 1200 B.C.E., right in the middle of this 500-year gap. If Joshua and his troops had surrounded Jericho, there would have been nobody home.