Ancient Jericho is the lowest and oldest town on earth. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 2012, the site shows evidence for thousands of years of occupation, beginning with hunter-gatherer groups who settled near the perennial Ain es-Sultan spring, or Elisha’s Spring. 23 layers of ancient civilization have been excavated at the site, with the earliest dating to the Natufian period (10th–8th millennia BCE). By the end of this period, Jericho represented a sizeable settlement with fortified walls, the earliest known in the world.
During the Bronze Age, Tell es-Sultan was a thriving Caananite City-State until it was demolished in the 2nd millennium BCE. The Middle and Late Bronze Age show less evidence of occupation, though the city walls were rebuilt in mud brick. Tell es-Sultan was reoccupied during the Iron Age and grew to be quite large in the 7th century BC. Settlement continued through the end of the Iron Age II, but occupation ended in 586 BCE, and the site was never repopulated.
The site carries much religious significance, and is mentioned multiple times in the new testament of the Christian Bible. Elisha’s Spring is associated with the prophet Elisha, who is said to have used the spring to make Jericho’s water clean. Near the site, the High Monastery of the Mount of temptation purportedly sits hear the place where Jesus fasted after his baptism.
Archaeologically, the site is significant not only for its many layers of habitation, but because of the excavation techniques used on site my Mortimer Wheeler, employing deep, horizontal trenches which highlight the stratigraphy of the soil and the context of finds, as opposed to focusing on finding and extracting archaeological remains.