The Oldest Continuously Inhabited City In The World

People have lived in this spot for thousands and thousands of years

Grant Piper

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A modern view of the city (Daniel Case / CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the Bible, the walls of Jericho are a big deal. That is because, according to archeological data, Jericho has the oldest stone fortifications in the world. Cities back then did not have the kinds of walls that Jericho sported. That is because Jericho is old. Very, very old. When other cities were toying with the idea of building stone fortifications to protect themselves, Jericho had already done it hundreds of years before.

The oldest parts of Jericho also had some of the first stone towers ever built by humans that predate even the impressive walls that would later follow.

Evidence suggests that Jericho was inhabited in roughly 9000BCE, meaning it has been inhabited by humans for 11,000 years. That is incredible. It also puts Jericho in firm control of the title of the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the world.

An inexact science

A map of Jericho found in a 14th century Bible (Public domain)

There is a lot of debate (and squabbling) about what city is indeed the oldest in the world. This is due in large part to the fact that ancient records are fickle at best and nonexistent at worst. Once you go back more than 4,000 years, there aren’t firm records to reference. Written records are scarce. Archeologists have to use the evidence being unearthed from the ground to make their case.

The problem with relying solely on rocks without records is that it is easy to point to a dig site and claim that people lived there. It is much harder to say precisely when and for how long.

The other issue comes from the agreed upon definition of continuously inhabited. If a family in a yurt squat atop some ruins for generations, does that count as inhabited? What if there was only a small gap due to famine, plague, or war? Does it still count? These are questions that also come into play when discussing this topic.

The haziness of some of these details about other sites have put them into question, but Jericho stands apart because it…

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Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.