Archaeology Verifies 13th c. BC Cities Listed in Joshua

Archaeology Verifies 13th c. BC Cities Listed in Joshua August 5, 2021

I’ve written several times about the “conquest” period of Israeli history: accounts of the ancient Hebrews  entering into Canaan as the “promised land”:

Archaeology & Joshua’s Altar on Mt. Ebal [7-22-14]

Pearce’s Potshots #32: No Evidence for Joshua’s Conquest? [5-28-21]

What Archaeology Tells Us About Joshua’s Conquest [National Catholic Register, 7-8-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #43: Joshua’s Conquest & Archaeology (Including a Plausible Theory as to Why Late Bronze Age Jericho (after 1550 BC) has Virtually Completely Eroded) [8-3-21]

Presently, I will simply list many of the Canaanite cities casually listed in the book of Joshua (excepting the several already dealt with in the above articles), and provide archaeological evidence of their existence in the “conquest” era of approximately 1250-1200 BC (the borderline between the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages: the latter beginning in 1200 BC). This in turn supports the view that the Bible is trustworthy as accurate in historical details.

Joshua 9:10 (RSV) . . . Og king of Bashan, who dwelt in Ash’taroth.

Ashteroth (Tell Ashtara) . . . is mentioned twice in the cuneiform Amarna letters from Tell el-Amarna in 1350 BC. . . . Tell Ashtara, north of the River Yarmouk, is a site considered to be identical with Ashtaroth, a city mentioned in several Egyptian sources: the Execration textsAmarna letters (mid-14th century BCE) and the campaign list of Ramesses III (r. 1186 to 1155 BCE). The city appears in Amarna letters EA 256 and EA 197 as Aštartu. In the Hebrew Bible it is mentioned as the capital of King Og of Bashan (Joshua 9:10 etc.) and as part of the territory of Manasseh (Joshua 13:31). (Wikipedia: “Ashteroth Karnaim”)

Joshua 9:17 And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities [Hivites: see 9:7] on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephi’rah, Be-er’oth, and Kir’iath-je’arim.

Khirbet Kefireh . . . is a modern Palestinian village just north of QatannaWest Bank on a hilltop covering about 4-5 acres. . . . most Bible dictionaries identify it with Chephirah. Dutch archaeologist Karel J.H. Vriezen extensively surveyed the site during September 1970, June and July 1973, and again in March and July 1974. . . . Vriezen found . . . pottery shards spanning the Early Bronze, Iron I, Iron II, . . . periods. Highlights include a jar handle bearing a LMLK seal impression, . . . The walls of the site included nine towers and three gates. A cistern and a quarry were found enclosed within the city walls. (Wikipedia)

Kir’iath-je’arim just started being excavated in 2017. Thus, the digging likely has not yet reached the Bronze Age level, to determine it if existed then. Kenneth A. Kitchen, eminent Egyptologist and archaeologist, has noted that “Usually less than about 5 or 10 percent of any given mound is ever dug down to Late Bronze (or any other) levels; hence between 85 and 95 percent of our potential source of evidence is never seen” (On the Reliability of the Old Testament, Grand Rapids and Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003, 189)

Joshua 10:3 So Ado’ni-ze’dek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron . . .

Hebron was in existence at the time of Abraham, some 500 years earlier, as I have shown. Kitchen summarizes the current state of archaeological evidence as to its status in the time of Joshua:

Work has (so far) not yielded habitation of the late Bronze Age, but one burial cave nearby was used more or less continuously from the Middle through the Late Bronze Age into (seemingly) Iron I. As the excavator observes, this may indicate a small Late Bronze occupation not yet detected by site excavation. (Kitchen, ibid., 184)

Joshua 10:3 . . . Piram king of Jarmuth . . .

In Late Bronze II [1400-1200 BC] the upper citadel was resettled. (Kitchen, 184)

It was a Canaanite city-state and appears as “city of Yaramu” on the mid-14th century BC tablet from Tell el-Hesi (Inscriptions). . . . The resettlement of the site took place in Late Bronze II . . . but only on the acropolis . . . (Avraham Negev and Shimon Gibson, Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, New York: Continuum, revised edition of 2001, 545, “Yarmut”)

Joshua 10:28 And Joshua took Makke’dah on that day, and smote it and its king with the edge of the sword; he utterly destroyed every person in it, he left none remaining; . . .

. . . may be located at Khirbet el-Qom, very plausibly (but not with certainty). Only very limited survey and excavations could be done there, as the modern Arab village overlies much of the site. Thus Late Bronze remains have not yet been found . . . (Kitchen, 183).

Some archaeologists (e.g., Z. Kallai) think it is located at Tel Arani. If so, that was “settled in Late Bronze IIB (13th century BC). Parts of a massive structure were uncovered” (Negev & Gibson, “Erani”, 166).

Joshua 10:33 Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish . . .

Gezer is firmly located at Tell Jazari by inscriptions, and it certainly existed in Late Bronze Age IIB, when Merneptah of Egypt captured it in circa 1209/1208 (“Israel Stela”). Stratum XV of excavations in the mound would likely represent the Gezer of this period . . . (Kitchen, 184)

Negev and Gibson devote a long entry to Gezer (pp. 196-199) and confirm many Late Bronze findings.

Joshua 10:41 And Joshua defeated them from Ka’desh-bar’nea to Gaza . . . (cf. 14:6-7; 15:3).

I’ve presented a good deal of Late Bronze evidence for Kadesh in my paper, Moses, Kadesh, Negev, Bronze Age, & Archaeology [6-10-21]

Archaeological soundings . . . in 1922 . . . uncovered a series of walls, the earliest of which was associated with Late Bronze Age pottery . . . Egyptian texts dating to the reign of Thutmosis II [r. 1493-1479 BC] refer to Gazat “a prize city of the governor,” indicating at least a 15th century BC date for the occupation of the site. Gaza is also mentioned in the El Amarna [c. 1350 BC] and Taanach tablets [also c. 1350 BC] as an Egyptian administrative center . . . (Negev & Gibson, “Gaza”, 191).

Joshua 11:1 When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent to . . .  the king of Shimron, and to the king of Ach’shaph,

Shimron was one of the Bronze Age fortified Canaanite cities that controlled the Jezreel Valley, possibly the largest of them. . . . In the Amarna letters [c. 1350 BC] and the Execration texts [end of 19th or early 18th century BC], the city is referred to as Shim’on. (Wikipedia, “Shimron”)

The name also figures in the list of Palestinian towns of Thutmosis III [r. 1479-1425 BC] . . . It is identified with Khirbet Sammuniyeh (Tell Shimron), where remains of the Late Bronze Age were observed. (Negev & Gibson, “Shimron”, 464).

The 1350 BC Amarna letters has Endaruta as the ‘mayor’ of Akšapa (Achshaph). . . . Only one extremely short letter–EA 223 (EA-el Amarna) is written from Endaruta of Akšapa, and it is a one sentence topic: [following a short 3-sentence formal-formulaic introduction] … “Whatever the king (i.e. pharaoh), my lord, orders, I shall prepare.”

But one perfectly preserved letter from Pharaoh, to Endaruta of Akšapa is known, EA 367. Its topic is to guard (and defend) Akšapa and to prepare for “troop arrivals”-(the archer-forces). The third and only other reference in the Amarna letters corpus is from letter EA 366 (from Šuwardata of Qiltu (?)), and the letter states:

“…only ‘Abdi-Heba and I have been at war with that ‘ApiruSurata, the ruler of Akka, and Endaruta, the ruler of Akšapa, these two also came to my aid, …” (Wikipedia, “Achshaph”)

One of the earliest Canaanite cities, it is mentioned for the first time in the later group of Execration Texts. It is also listed among the cities conquered by Thutmosis III in the middle of the 15th century BC. . . . It also appears in the Egyptian papyrus Anastasi I of the 13th century BC. (Negev & Gibson, “Achshaph”, 16).

This place, near Accho, is known to have existed in the thirteenth century under Ramesses II . . . Rival sites for its location include Tell el-Harbaj (Tel Regev) and Tell Keisan, each of which show Late Bronze remains. (Kitchen, 186)

Joshua 11:2 and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the Arabah south of Chin’neroth, . . .

Kinneret (Hebrew: כִּנֶּרֶת‎) is the name of an important Bronze and Iron Age city situated on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, mentioned in the 14th century BCE Aqhat Epic of Ugarit, . . . Older Bible translations spell the name alternatively Kinnereth or Chinnereth, and sometimes in the plural as Chinneroth. In time the name became Gennesaret and Ginosar (Hebrew: גִּנֵּיסַר‎). The remains of Kinneret have been excavated at a site called Tell el-‘Oreimeh in Arabic and Tel Kinrot in Modern Hebrew. . . .

Kinneret is mentioned as Kennartou in the 15th-century BCE Annals of Thutmose III at Temple of Karnak. (Wikipedia: “Kinneret”)

Only after another gap was the city reestablished, during Iron Age I. . . . The whole city seems to follow the Canaanite tradition of the Late Bronze Age. (Negev & Gibson, “Kinneret”, 285).

Joshua 11:3 to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Per’izzites, and the Jeb’usites in the hill country, and the Hivites under Hermon in the land of Mizpah.

I’ve already dealt with the Amorites and Hittites from an archaeological standpoint.

Joshua 11:5 And all these kings joined their forces, and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom, to fight with Israel.

It is apparently mentioned in the list of conquests of Thutmosis III [r. 1479-1425 BC], and a fortified town in Galilee by the name of mrm is drawn, together with other Galilean cities, on the reliefs of Pharaoh Rameses II [r. 1279-1213 BC]. (Negev & Gibson, “Merom”, 332).

Joshua 11:8 And the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel, who smote them and chased them as far as Great Sidon and Mis’rephoth-ma’im, . . .

In the El Amarna letters [1350 BC] Zimrida, King of Sidon, is mentioned. (Negev & Gibson, “Sidon”, 470).

Identified with Khirbet el-Meshrifeh, south of Ras en-Naqura, which was inhabited in all periods. (Negev & Gibson, “Misrepoth Maim”, 340).

Joshua 11:22 There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, did some remain.

Gath or Gat (Biblical Hebrew: גַּת‎ – Gaṯwine press; Latin: Geth), often referred to as Gath of the Philistines, was one of the five Philistine city-states, established in northeastern Philistia. . . . Gath is mentioned in the El-Amarna letters [c. 1350 BC] as Gimti/Gintu, . . . The site most favored as the location of Gath is the archaeological mound or tell known as Tell es-Safi in Arabic and Tel Zafit in Hebrew (sometimes written Tel Tzafit) . . .

The Late Bronze remains at the site are impressive as well, evidence of the Canaanite city of Gath, which is mentioned in the El-Amarna letters. Finds from this period include a large, apparently public building, cultic-related finds, and a small collection of Egyptiaca, including two Egyptian Hieratic inscriptions, both inscribed on locally-made vessels. (Wikipedia, “Gath”)

The first documented urban settlement at Ashdod dates to the Canaanite culture of the 17th century BCE. . . . The site of Ashdod in the Bronze Age was at a tell just south of the modern city. It was excavated by archaeologists in nine seasons between 1962 and 1972. . . .  Ashdod is first mentioned in written documents from Late Bronze Age Ugarit [13th-12th c. BC], which indicate that the city was a center of export for dyed woolen purple fabric and garments. At the end of the 13th century BCE the Sea Peoples conquered and destroyed Ashdod. By the beginning of the 12th century BCE, the Philistines, generally thought to have been one of the Sea Peoples, ruled the city. (Wikipedia, “Ashdod”)

Joshua 12:2 Sihon king of the Amorites who dwelt at Heshbon, and ruled from Aro’er . . .

It is identified with Khirbet Arair on the River Mogib (Arnon), where remains of Bronze Age and Iron age settlements, and of a Nabatean settlement, have been found. . . . [I]t was resettled at the end of the Late Bronze Age . . . (Negev & Gibson, “Aroer (a)”, 53).

Joshua 12:4 and Og king of Bashan, one of the remnant of the Reph’aim, who dwelt at Ash’taroth and at Ed’re-i

Daraa is an ancient city dating back to the Canaanites. It was mentioned in Egyptian hieroglyphic tablets at the time of the Pharaoh Thutmose III between 1490 and 1436 BC. It was known in those days as the city of Atharaa. It was later referred to in the Hebrew Bible as Edrei or Edre’i (אֶדְרֶעִי), the capital of Bashan, . . . (Wikipedia, “Dara”)

Joshua 12:18 the king of Aphek, . . .

From the thirteenth century, a central fortified residence has been dug, with very international connections, probably of an Egyptian governor; other traces exist as well, such as tombs. (Kitchen, 185)

In the ruins of the palace were discovered Egyptian, Hittite and Akkadian documents, . . . Most of these documents date from the 14th-13th centuries BC. (Negev & Gibson, “Aphek (a)”, 38).

Joshua 12:21 the king of Ta’anach, . . .

Tell Ta’annek. Occupied from the seventeenth to mid-fifteenth century, then not visibly until the late thirteenth into the twelfth century. The former date suits Joshua, and the latter Deborah in Judges. (Kitchen, 185).

To Late Bronze Age II belongs another large palace, whose walls were 7 feet thick (Negev & Gibson, “Taanach”, 487).

Joshua 12:21 . . . the king of Megid’do . . .

Tell el-Mutesillim. Megiddo was an important place through the sixteenth to early twelfth centuries (strata X to VIIA, series of palaces, etc.), and it prospered  also into the eleventh century (VI), after and before destructions. (Kitchen, 185).

At the Battle of Megiddo the city was subjugated by Thutmose III (r. 1479–1425 BCE), and became part of the Egyptian Empire. However, the city still prospered, and a massive and elaborate government palace was constructed in the Late Bronze Age. In the Amarna Period (c. 1350 BC), Megiddo was a vassalage of the Egyptian Empire. The Amarna Letter E245 mentions local ruler Biridiya of Megiddo. (Wikipedia, “Tel Megiddo”)

Joshua 12:22 the king of Kedesh, one; the king of Jok’ne-am . . .

Possibly the present-day Tell Abu Qudeis in Jezreel; its stratum VIII goes back to the thirteenth century at least; more is not known. Another Qedesh, at tell Qudeish, is reported northwest of Lake Huleh, also of this period. (Kitchen, 186)

A name which may possibly refer to Kedesh appears in the lists of Thutmosis III [(r. 1479-1425 BC] and in the El Amarna letters [c. 1350 BC]. (Negev & Gibson, “Kedesh (b)”, 278).

Joqneam . . . Tell Qemun. With a very long history. its stratum XIX in the thirteenth century ended in destruction (one meter deep in debris, and a gap in occupation into the early twelfth century, when life resumed (strata XVIII-XVII). (Kitchen, 185)

Yoqneam is mentioned in the Karnak inscription recording the campaign of Thutmosis III into Canaan (c. 1486 BC). (Negev & Gibson, “Yoqneam (Tel)”, 550).

Joshua 12:23 the king of Dor in Naphath-dor . . .

Traces of Late Bronze Age I-II materials have turned up, but systematic excavation has not yet reached beyond circa 1100 levels. (Kitchen, 185)

The earliest known appearance of Dor is from an Egyptian inscription from Nubia, dated to the time of Rameses II (13th century BC). (Negev & Gibson, “Dor (Tel)”, 144).

Joshua 12:24 the king of Tirzah . . .

The first Iron Age remains (period VIIa) were built upon a Late Bronze wall. (Kitchen, 185)

The burials, both of children and of adults, were the same [in the Late Bronze Age] as those of the preceding period . . . This settlement must have been abandoned either at the end of the 14th century or early in the 13th century BC. (Negev & Gibson, “Farah, Tell-El- (North)”, 171).

Someone wants extra-biblical / historical / archaeological conformation of the remarkable and systematic historical accuracy of the book of Joshua? You’re very welcome . . .


Photo credit: Avram Graicer (4-15-11). Aerial view of Tel Megiddo, northern Israel. [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]


Summary: I list many cities mentioned in the book of Joshua and provide archaeological and historical evidences of their existence during and before the Late Bronze Age (Joshua’s time).

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