Among the first cities of the world, Jericho remains the most significant. It was the first truly communal settlement, the first to be surrounded by walls and to feature towers and steps. These are just a few of the fascinating insights featured in Jericho: The First City on Earth?, an illuminating documentary that feels like a living time capsule.
Jericho was established before the advent of pottery, writing or other means by which modern-day archeologists distill past narratives. There is much we have yet to learn about the ancient city, such as where its inhabitants originated or which god they worshiped. But there are tell-tale signs that teach us much about how they lived and the advancements they ushered into being.
Located on the West Bank in Palestine, Jericho is thought to date back 11,000 years. Remarkably, the desert landscape has changed very little in the time since, and it continues to house populations to this day. Though the region had been uncovered decades earlier, the most significant findings occurred in the 1950s under the guidance of acclaimed British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon. Through meticulous excavation and study, Kenyon and her crew were able to date the area and provide clues as to how the city managed to thrive for thousands of years.
The film recounts these findings and the evidence that supports them. Early farmers might have converged with Jericho's hunter-gatherers, brought with them an early form of grain, and taught them new advances in agriculture. More widespread acceptance of communal living and agricultural concepts would come into play many years later during the Neolithic Age.
Other artifacts in the region speak to religious fixations, most notably in a mysterious tower structure. Evidence also suggests that the city inhabitants were the first to domesticate animals.
Jericho: The First City on Earth? paints a vivid portrait of a time long, long ago. For as many answers as it provides, the film also embraces the enduring enigma of the region. Archaeologists and other researchers continue their quest to unearth greater truths about the region and its influence on the world we know today.
Directed by: Pete Kelly