John Garstang’s Excavations at Jericho

The site of Jericho, located near the Jordan River on the West Bank, is famous for a number of reasons, not the least of which being its importance in biblical literature. The site contains the remains of no less than twenty successive settlements, and is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world (as well as the oldest known city with a protective wall). The Hebrew name for Jericho, Yeriẖo, is likely derived from the Canaanite word reaẖ, meaning “fragrant”. This imagery evokes the natural landscape surrounding the site; Jericho is a Tell site surrounded by copious natural springs which have historically provided a compelling reason for human societies to settle around the site – in fact, the earliest structures pre-date sedentary agriculture and other early cultures around Jericho were pre-ceramic (belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A Phase). At the foot of the Tell itself, a perennial spring provides fresh water and irrigation for the nearby soil, providing ideal conditions for early agriculture. Furthermore, the site itself is located on an important route leading into coastal Palestine and the Fertile Crescent, important centres of early settlement, trade and human migration.

The Garstang Excavation

The first excavations at the site of Jericho took place in 1868 under the auspices of Sir Charles Warren of the British Royal Engineers, who dug into the Tell but found little to interest him and moved on. John Garstang arrived in 1930 and excavated until 1936, reaching the Neolithic phase of site occupation and covering successive incarnations of the city. The aim of the excavation was to investigate the biblical history of the site, attempting to incorporate the stratigraphy of the site into the narrative of conquest portrayed in the Bible. The excavation uncovered four distinct layers of occupation, which Garstang interpreted as four separate cities built on top of each other. It also uncovered a structure, identified as a temple by John Garstang, which showed evidence of regular reconstruction with foundations stretching through multiple occupation phases, as well as a structure identified as a palace standing at the highest point within the city walls.

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Archive photograph from John Garstang’s excavations at Jericho.

The excavations uncovered not only Neolithic assemblages but also deeper deposits belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A Phase. The work of the Garstang excavation cleared two levels of occupation of the Pre-Pottery Phase, uncovering highly developed settlement architecture (for the time period) consisting of hand-made mud brick walls and fine, burnished plaster on the ceilings and floors. Notably, this architectural style changes completely in the succeeding ceramic phase.

Burial Assemblages at Jericho

The majority of finds from John Garstang’s excavations were ceramic, although many proved difficult to date due to a lack of significant parallels. While the forms of the vessels were similar to material from other Near Eastern sites, consisting primarily of small juglets and open bowls, the decoration was almost entirely unique. This decorated style incorporates motifs of chevrons and triangles in a red pigment, and the decorated vessels exist alongside undecorated vessels made primarily of coarse ceramic with grit and straw inclusions. The majority of these ceramic vessels came from a necropolis west of the Tell, which provided information regarding burial customs at the site.

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A selection of undecorated ceramic bowls, dipper juglets, a cylindrical vase and a pedestal vase from Tomb D13, dated c.2200-1570 BCE.

Tombs were generally small chambers or shallow, round graves containing material including ceramics, flint implements and the remains of offerings such as sheep bones. They varied greatly in size, and older remains and grave goods were often pushed aside to make room for newer series’ of burials with tombs containing anything from four to over a hundred occupants. This form of burial assemblage is typical of Near Eastern sites, but notably the concentration of pottery at Jericho far outstripped the inclusion of other material (although, of course, any potential perishables included in the burials may not have survived). Notably, objects found in these burials illustrated early links with other cultures in the Mediterranean and Egypt.

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Miniature juglets, used to store perfume (J.57.7, J.57.91-92 and J.57.95).

Human Heads!

One of Garstang’s key discoveries at Jericho was a plaster head, with shells for eyes, part of a complete figure. This discovery was made from contexts approximately between the pre-pottery and pottery phases, but more evidence has been discovered relating to human heads at Jericho by later excavations under the direction of Dame Kathleen Kenyon, who excavated a collection of “portrait heads” in 1953. These heads were moulded in plaster around human skulls with inset shells replacing the eyes, identified as objects of interest for early cultic and religious practice at the site. Notably, the skulls themselves are personal and no two are alike, suggesting that they may be representative of actual individuals living at Jericho in the Neolithic period!

Conclusions – A Century of Work

The site of Jericho is a fundamentally important milestone in understanding early human development, settlement and agricultural practices. The excavation history of the site is long and storied, and the work of John Garstang is just one of many excavations that has provided information about Jericho’s rich history. The collection of material from John Garstang’s excavations illustrates the vibrant cultures developing at the site in the Neolithic, and his discovery of the aceramic culture has led to Jericho being considered a quintessential example of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A Phase.

Chris Bebbington.

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The making of our Beni Hasan Mural

Our empty wall!

Our empty wall!

Ever since we began the redesign and redevelopment of our galleries here at the museum we knew we wanted to do something a little different in our Egyptian Afterlife gallery, instead of another text panel we decided to have a more artistic element in the form of a tomb mural.

Linking our idea to our collection we decided to look at images from tombs from the site of Beni Hasan at which our very own John Garstang excavated early in his career. Furthermore, one of our most beautiful and prized objects, the box coffin of Userhat (E.512) sits right in front of the mural.

The scene we settled on is from the tomb of Khnumhotep II (II because the locals of Beni Hasan during this time weren’t particularly original with their names), dating to early 12th Dynasty (1985-1773BC) the scenes which decorate this tomb are complex and beautiful, showing elegant variations on what are often seen as classical themes. We started with a 20th Century line drawing of the chosen scene published by Percy Newberry (who also had long standing Liverpool links), we passed this over to our talented mural artist Matthew a.k.a. Monsieur Mural (https://www.facebook.com/MonsieurMural?fref=ts) and he blew it up to the size required. Throughout the process, Matt used traditional sign-writing techniques to apply the image to the wall.

STEP 1: Applying the outline of the images to chalk-backed paper, this is done by tracing the elements onto the paper after applying soft pencil to the reverse.

The outline of one of the hieroglyphs through the soft pencil.

The outline of one of the hieroglyphs through the soft pencil.

The full-sized outline, ready for the wall.

The full-sized outline, ready for the wall.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 2: Pouncing the image onto the wall. This is a traditional technique of applying chalk lines to the surface. When completed it leaves a rather ghost like version of the scene.

Matt pouncing the image.

Matt pouncing the image.

Khnumhotep as a chalk figure.

Khnumhotep as a chalk figure.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 3: Once the chalk lines were up on the wall, Matt started the longest part of the process, the painting. It took around a day and a half to get from a blank wall to having a completed mural and a lot of this was taken up by the painting. As this is only around half life size, one can only imagine the time it would have taken to create the original piece at Beni Hasan as not only was it larger but also carved in sunken relief and finally painted in a garish array of bright colours.

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Nearly there!

Nearly there!

 

 

THE RESULTS:

The finished mural

The finished mural

We will be putting the students through their steps reading the text here as soon as the new academic year begins!

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Object in Focus: A Meroitic Lion Statuette- E.8003

E.8003

E.8003

The object in focus this week is a small limestone statuette of a Lion from the ancient capital of Sudan, the city of Meroë (around 200km northeast of modern Khartoum). He is 14.8cm tall and was discovered by Prof. John Garstang during the 1912 season of excavations. Garstang excavated extensively at Meroë on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology between 1909 and 1914. His excavations revealed a complex layout of houses, temples and palaces built of stone and mud brick, with the remains of earlier periods being buried by later constructions as the city continued to be occupied for nearly a 1000 years. Meroë had a big impact on Garstang’s life, shown by the fact that he named his daughter after the city, which he had spent so long excavating.

The Kushite Empire was long lived and dates from between 890 BC and AD320. Whilst it was centred in the cities of Meroë and Napata, the rulers of Kush also held Egypt for around a century during the period known by Egyptologists as the Late Period. During this time a number of Kushite kings, such as Piye (Piankhy), Shabaqa and Taharqa also ruled over the Nile Valley as the 25th Dynasty of Egyptian kings. Despite losing their territory within the Egypt during the Assyrian conquest of the country, the Kingdom of Kush remained a major power in East Africa well into the early fourth century AD.

The art and culture of these kings was a fusion of the classically Egyptian and that of their native Sudan, both of these traditions living side by side. The golden age of the Kushite rulers within Egypt is often focused on the reign of Taharqa, who rebuilt temples within the Nile valley and attempted to extend the borders of his kingdom north of the Sinai. However, it was not to be, and the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal eventually expelled these rulers from the Egyptian Nile valley. Taharqa also produced one of the best known objects from this time, a sphinx in the British Museum which clearly shows the fusing of Egyptian and Kushite artistic traditions.

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BM EA 1770 -The Sphinx of Taharqa (Trustees of the British Museum)

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/s/sphinx_of_taharqo.aspx

Whilst the mythical sphinx is not unusual within Ancient Egypt, after all there is an exceptionally large example hewn into the Giza plateau itself, the lion also held a special significance within the Meroitic culture for a number of reasons. In fact, lions are a recurrent element found in the artefacts of this culture. As such, this statuette is only one of many leonine artefacts within our collection.

One of the primary functions of the lion was as a marker of royal authority, often shown devouring captives, or in this case seated regally.  The lion headed god Apedemak was worshipped as “the Lord of Royal power” in his temple at Naqa (south of Meroë). One famous relief in this temple shows a three-headed, four-armed Apedemak being adored by Queen Amanitore and King Natakamani.

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In addition to this, lions were also hunted, along with rhinoceroses. This dangerous game hunting was a sign of the power of the individual. The burial of animals with the Kings of Kush is well attested- with the first King buried at the site of el-Kurru, King Kashta, with a number of chariot horses. In this tradition, there is also evidence for the burial of three young lions at Sanam- though why this was done is unclear.This statuette will be displayed in our new galleries in 2014 with a range of Ancient Sudanese material from Gartang’s excavations. He will be joined by a whole pride of lions both small and large!