We went to the ruins of Biblical Jerico today, and it was awesome. The ruins themselves were relatively unimpressiver at first glance, but it is astounding to see them. Jerico has been inhabited for thousands and thousands of years and houses the oldest known manmade structure, dated at 10,000 years old.
The stories behind the excavations are rich. The first archeologist to study the site was a man whose name escapes me in the 1930's. He had an agenda-- he was there to prove the biblical account correct, and he did. The next archeologist was a woman whose name escapes me, and she was there a little more objectively, but seemed to want to disprove the Biblical account, and she did. The third and last archeologist was the reknowned Israeli Yagial Yadin of Dead Sea Scroll fame, who went even more objectively and proved that the results were inconclusive. The main argument surrounds the composition of the wall that came down and the debris around it; the first gentleman found debris from a wall that was dated to the right general time period and called it the wall that God tore down for Joshua and company. The woman found a still-standing wall from the same period and building materials and concluded that the wall never fell. Yadin said either was plausible, and new civilizations often built walls out of materials from older walls that have crumbled (including the present walls around the Old City in Jerusalem; many of the stones were taken from the wall Herod the Great built fifteen hundred years before, during Christ's time).
We also went to (and into) the ruins of Herod's winter cottage near Jerico. It was massive and ornate in its beginnings, and the materials from it were pilfered over time into neighboring communities.
The most suprising thing about this trip for me was the lack of protection or fencing or officiality about each site; the Palestinian Authority (Jerico is in the West Bank) just does not have money to upkeep these sites. The splendor of Jerico was protected only by an ankle-high cord that streched along the edge of the escavations, and Herod's palace was literally on the side of the road. No signs, no fence, nothing to keep people like us from taking pictures inside of it, so we did. The oldest building known to have been created by man, in Jerico, can be walked on by anyone who wants to. Ahh, it hurts me to think of the damage done by little kids and curious tourists to that timeless treasure, the tower of Jerico. Alas, there is nothing I can do. That I would be willing to, anyway. I suppose there is always a way to do something if you devote your life to a cause, but I do not feel that strongly about it.
And now I bid you adieu, I have loads of homework beckoning.