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Jericho in Smiths Bible Dictionary. (place of fragrance), a city of high antiquity, situated in a plain traversed by the Jordan, and exactly over against where that river was crossed by the Israelites under Joshua. Jos 3:16 It was five miles West of the Jordan and seven miles northwest of the Dead Sea. It had a king. Its walls were so considerable that houses were built upon them. ch. Jos 2:15 The spoil that was found in it betokened its affluence. Jericho is first mentioned as the city to which the two spies were sent by Joshua from Shittim. Jos 2:1-21 It was bestowed by him upon the tribe of Benjamin, ch. Jos 18:21 and from this time a long interval elapses before Jericho appears again upon the scene. Its second foundation under Hiel the Bethelite is recorded in 1Ki 16:34 Once rebuilt, Jericho rose again slowly into consequence. In its immediate vicinity the sons of the prophets sought retirement from the world Elisha "healed the spring of the waters" and over against it, beyond Jordan, Elijah "went up by a whirlwind into heaven." 2Ki 2:1-22 In its plains Zedekiah fell into the hands of the Chaldeans. 2Ki 25:5 Jer 39:5 In the return under Zerubbabel the "children of Jericho," 345 in number, are comprised. Ezr 2:34 Ne 7:36 Under Herod the Great it again became an important place. He fortified it and built a number of new palaces, which he named after his friends. If he did not make Jericho his habitual residence, he at last retired thither to die, and it was in the amphitheater of Jericho that the news of his death was announced to the assembled soldiers and people by Salome. Soon afterward the palace was burnt and the town plundered by one Simon, slave to Herod but Archelaus rebuilt the former sumptuously, and founded a new town on the plain, that bore his own name and, most important of all, diverted water from a village called Neaera to irrigate the plain which he had planted with palms. Thus Jericho was once more "a city of palms" when our Lord visited it. Here he restored sight to the blind. Mt 20:30 Mr 10:46 Lu 18:35 Here the descendant of Rahab did not disdain the hospitality of Zaccaeus the publican. Finally, between Jerusalem and Jericho was laid the scene of his story of the good Samaritan. The city was destroyed by Vespasian. The site of ancient (the first) Jericho is placed by Dr. Robinson in the immediate neighborhood of the fountain of Elisha and that of the second (the city of the New Testament and of Josephus) at the opening of the Wady Kelt (Cherith), half an hour from the fountain. (The village identified with jericho lies a mile and a half from the ancient site, and is called Riha. It contains probably 200 inhabitants, indolent and licentious and about 40 houses. Dr. Olin says it is the "meanest and foulest village of Israel" yet the soil of the plain is of unsurpassed fertility. --ED.)
Tulul Abu el-'Alayiq. Jericho probably meant "place of fragrance" or "moon city"). An ancient city in the wide plain where the Jordan Valley broadens between the Moab mountains and the western precipices, and situated on the route of Israel after they crossed the Jordan under Joshua (Josh 3:16). The first mention of Jericho in Scripture is in connection with the advance of Israel to Canaan they "camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan opposite Jericho" (Num 22:1). The spies sent by Joshua were entertained in Jericho by Rahab, for which they promised her protection when the city would be destroyed (Josh 2:1-21 6:25). The miraculous capture of Jericho, the sin and punishment of Achan, and the curse pronounced upon anyone who should attempt to rebuild it are graphically recorded (6-7). Jericho was given to the tribe of Benjamin (18:21), "and from this time a long interval elapsed before Jericho appeared again upon the scene.
It is only incidentally mentioned in the life of David in connection with his embassy to the Ammonite king (2 Sam 10:5). It was also called 'a city of palm trees' (Judg 1:16 3:13). In its immediate vicinity the sons of the prophets sought retirement from the world: Elisha 'healed the spring of the waters' and near it beyond Jordan, Elijah 'went up by a whirlwind into heaven' (2 Kings 2:1-22). In its plains Zedekiah fell into the hands of the Chaldeans (25:5 39:5). In the return under Zerubbabel the 'children of Jericho,' 345 in number, are comprised (Ezra 2:34 Neh 7:36) the 'men of Jericho' assisted Nehemiah in rebuilding that part of the wall of Jerusalem that was next to the sheep-gate (3:2).
The Jericho of the days of Josephus was a distant "one hundred and fifty stadia from Jerusalem and fifty from the Jordan."
In the NT Jericho is mentioned in connection with Jesus' restoring sight to the blind (Matt 20:29-30 Mark 10:46 Luke 18:35) and His being entertained by Zaccheus (19:1-8). And finally, it was mentioned in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30), which revealed that robbers have always terrorized the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.
NT or Herodian Jericho stood on both sides of the Wadi Qelt almost two miles SW of Tell es-Sultan there Herod the Great built his winter palace, and many more fine buildings. Archaeologists have found that S of the Wadi Qelt stood an artificial mound with a pavilion on top of it. S of the artificial mound was a wing of the palace, which is now covered over. Steps led from the artificial mound to the Wadi Qelt. At the foot of the mound on the E was a large pool, and on the W was a sunken garden backed by a grand facade with forty-eight statuary niches. A bridge led across the Wadi Qelt to the N wing of the palace, which consisted of a reception hall, two open courtyards, a bath complex, and other rooms. Nearby, Hasmonaean palaces and a monumental swimming pool have been discovered but are only partially excavated.
After wandering in the desert 40 years, the Israelites finally approached the boundary of the Promised Land near Shittim. Their great leader Moses had died, and God had transferred power to Moses' successor, Joshua.
Before invading the hostile land of Canaan, Joshua had sent in two spies to scout the enemy. Their story is told in the account of Rahab, the prostitute.
Joshua ordered the people to consecrate themselves by washing themselves, their clothes, and refraining from sex. The next day, he assembled them a half mile behind the ark of the covenant. He told the Levite priests to carry the ark to the Jordan River, which was swollen and treacherous, overflowing its banks with snowmelt from Mount Hermon.
As soon as the priests waded in with the ark, the water stopped flowing and piled in a heap, 20 miles north near the village of Adam. It was also cut off to the south. While the priests waited with the ark in the middle of the river, the entire nation crossed over on dry ground.
The Lord commanded Joshua to have 12 men, one from each of the 12 tribes, pick up a stone from the center of the riverbed. About 40,000 men from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had crossed over first, armed and ready for battle.
Once everyone had crossed, the priests with the ark came out of the riverbed. As soon as they were safe on dry land, the waters of the Jordan rushed in.
The people camped that night at Gilgal, about two miles away from Jericho. Joshua took the 12 stones they had brought and stacked them into a memorial. He told the nation it was a sign to all the nations of the earth that the Lord God had parted the waters of the Jordan, just as he had parted the Red Sea in Egypt.
Then the Lord commanded Joshua to circumcise all the men, which he did since they had not been circumcised during the desert wanderings. After that, the Israelites celebrated Passover, and the manna that had fed them for 40 years stopped. They ate the produce of the land of Canaan.
The conquest of the land was about to begin. The angel who commanded God's army appeared to Joshua and told him how to win the battle of Jericho.
Joshua Crosses Jordan
Joshua is the central character in the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Joshua. Based on the passages of the Books of Exodus, Numbers and Joshua, he became the leader of the Israelites, following the death of Moses. He is also known as one of the twelve spies of Israel who was sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan. After Moses’ death, Joshua led the Israelite tribes and secured much of the Canaan. He allocated the land to the tribes. He is placed on the Bible Timeline Poster during the life of Moses and the time of the Judges.These Articles are Written by the Publishers of The Amazing Bible Timeline
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The Jordan River
The Jordan River stretches 251 kilometers in West Asia flowing to the Dead Sea. Now, this river serves as the eastern border of the State of Israel. Waters from this river are an important resource to the dry lands in the surrounding area. It is also the source of conflict in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians which began with 1951 Syrian border clashes. In Christian tradition, this is the site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. It is also the scene of several miracles such as the Israelites crossing it under Joshua.
Joshua crosses Jordan
After the death of Moses, God commands Joshua to lead the Israelites to take possession of the Promised Land. The people swear their allegiance to Joshua. To investigate the territory, he sends two spies across the river. The spies enter Jericho and were helped by a prostitute named Rahab, who hid them in her home and lied to the city officials regarding the spies’ presence. She tells the spies that the Canaanites are afraid of Israel and its miraculous successes. Rahab professed her belief in the God of Israelites and asked for protection for her family when the Israelites destroy Jericho. The spies pledge to preserve Rahab and then return to Joshua, informing him of the weakened condition of Israel’s enemies.
As Israelites cross the Jordan River, they were led by a team of priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Priests enter the water and the flow of the river stops. Israelites then cross the river on dry land. After arriving on the other side, Israelites celebrate the miracle with an altar of twelve stones from the river bed. This represents the twelve tribes of Israel. Since then, the people begin to make use of the new land. Also, the Israelite men perform the ritual of circumcision in preparation for battle.
Conquest of Canaan
After crossing the Jordan River, Joshua led the Battle of Jericho and became victorious. They then moved on to Ai, which is a small neighboring city to the west. They were defeated in Ai resulting in thirty-six Israelite deaths. The said defeat was attributed to Achan, who took an “accursed thing” from Jericho. To restore God’s favor, Achan and his family and animals were being stoned to death. After that, Joshua then went to defeat Ai.
Meanwhile, the Israelites also allied with Amorite kings from Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. While at Gibeon, Joshua asked God to cause the sun and moon to stand still to finish the battle in daylight. God fought for the Israelites in this battle, as He hurled huge hailstones from the sky that killed more Canaanites than those which the Israelites slaughtered. From then on, Joshua led the Israelites to several victories while securing much of the land of Canaan.
Joshua in the Bible
God commanded Joshua, after the death of Moses, to lead the Israelites to the promised land.
Joshua 2:1. Joshua was commanding two men to spy on the Promised Land and even Jericho.
Joshua 2:24. The two spies came back to Joshua and told him of the weakened position of their enemies.
Joshua 3:1. Joshua leaves Shittim and came to Jordan.
Joshua 3:6. Joshua commands the priests to take up the Ark of the Covenant and pass over before the people.
Joshua 3:7. T he miracle on Jordan River, allowing the Israelites to cross it.
Joshua 4:4. Israelites crossed the Jordan River.
Joshua 4:8. Israelites commemorate the miracle with an altar of twelve stones from the river bed, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Jericho River Poster - History
HENRY COUNTY WEB
Lake Jericho Recreational Camping Area
1317 Lake Access Rd.
Smithfield, Ky 40068
Lake Jericho is a 137 acre lake located in Henry County, Kentucky and is operated by The Little Kentucky River Watershed Conservancy District. It opened for business on July 25, 1969. A daily admission fee is charged to anyone on the property. This fee, in combination with camping, boating fees, etc. is used to maintain and operate the park. (SEE RATES BELOW)
The park area is open daylight hours and has lots of bank fishing area as well as picnic tables and grills. Two shelters with restrooms are available on a first-come basis and shelters may be reserved for family reunions, company picnics, church outings, etc. (Call for reservations.)
Camping is available on a first come basis also. The camping season is April through October and campsites may be rented nightly, weekly or monthly. There are 62 RV sites with electric and water. Approximately half of the sites have sewer hook-ups and a dumping station is also available. Many tent sites are located in the center of the campground.
We have a small store on the ground to purchase ICE, BAIT, or SNACKS. Please respect nature and dispose of wrappers and other trash appropriately.
All fishermen MUST have a Kentucky State Fishing License. Fishing is allowed with rod and reel only. Common fish species caught are largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and catfish. State regulations are enforced. Licenses can be obtained at sporting goods stores such as Wal*Mart and Cabela's.
Pets are allowed but must be kept on a leash.
Rowdy and disorderly conduct will not be tolerated!!
LAKE JERICHO RATES AND INFORMATION
(as of 2014)
Open from dawn to dusk, 7 days a week
Our season is from April 1st to November 1st. The campground closes November 1st, however if weather is nice, we are open for daytime fishing. If you have any other questions, you can reach us at the Lake Jericho Ticket Office at (502) 743-5205 .
We also have a yearly membership (for daytime use only) that covers a husband and wife, their own children under the age of 16 and launch fee for 1 boat.
|Henry & Trimble Counties||$40.00|
|Under age 6||FREE|
The only way to be here after dark is to pay the camping fee and be in the campground area.
All entries MUST BE BEFORE DARK , after dark the gates are closed.
These camping rates cover 2 adults and any children under the age of 12, with a limit of 6 people per campsite.
Primitive Sites: Please call for availability
If you have your own boat, you can be out on the lake at night time.
For further information call 502 743-5205
Little Kentucky River Watershed
Conservancy District Board
(Overseers of Lake Jericho)
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The Conquest of Jericho
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During six days Joshua makes the priests carry the Ark of the Covenant around the city of Jericho, with its impressive city walls. The priests blow trumpets of rams' horns and make one round a day. On the seventh day they make seven rounds. In the final round Joshua tells the people to cheer. Under their cheering, the Jericho walls finally crumble.
Jericho was the first city the Israelites conquered after the crossing of the river Jordan.
This is an illumination by Fouquet in a manuscript of Flavius Josephus' "Antiquities of the Jews". The river in the background is probably the river Jordan.
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The Jericho River Poster - History
"John Ball, Plan of a Tract of Land Containing 4,408 acres," plat of Jericho Plantation, Bethera, South Carolina, January 2, 1808, courtesy of the John McCrady Plat Collection , Charleston County Register of Mesne Conveyance .
Examining the development and decline of inland rice on individual plantations provides insight into the various ways planters and slaves adapted the general cultivation model for inland rice to meet the demands of specific Lowcountry environments. Although inland rice plantations relied on reservoirs as a water source to irrigate their fields, methods to control water on and off the fields differed from plantation to plantation. The ability to control water also depended on the population of enslaved laborers to build and maintain ditches and embankments, and the management strategies of different planters.
Early Planters at Jericho
Jericho Plantation, located on the headwaters of the East Branch of the Cooper River, was a productive inland rice plantation from the mid-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. John Coming Ball and his son, John Coming Ball II, purchased an assortment of properties in the mid and late eighteenth century to assemble the 3527-acre Jericho Plantation. After the death of John Coming Ball II in 1792, executors rented Jericho to John Jaudon for six years for a price of £15 annually. In March 1810, Isaac Ball inherited Jericho. From 1810-1825, Isaac pieced together a 14,489-acre landholding that included Jericho, and stretched 8.5 miles through the Huger Creek watershed. After Isaac’s death in 1825, John Ball, Jr. managed the estate until his death in 1835. Isaac’s wife Eliza and her brother John Poyas managed the estate and leased the plantation to Mathurin Guerin Gibbs from 1845 until his death in 1849. Mathurin’s wife Maria was Eliza Poyas Ball’s niece and John Poyas’ sister.
Mathurin Guerin Gibbs
Mathurin Guerin Gibbs, was born in 1788 to John Gibbs and Susannah Guerin on a Stono River plantation in St. Andrew’s Parish. The family’s rural residence was short lived, as John died when Mathurin was three years old. Susana Guerin Gibbs abandoned the Stono estate and moved her family to Charleston. Mathurin graduated from law school and married Maria Louisa Poyas, daughter of planter John Ernest Poyas.
While practicing law in Charleston, Gibbs sought to enter the planter class by purchasing Rice Hope Plantation in 1837 for $4,000. Rice Hope was an inland rice plantation located on Goose Creek in St. James Parish. Although the 1,007-acre property had the infrastructure to support the crop, Gibbs did not grow rice as a commodity. Instead, he focused on Santee black seed cotton, which was a popular cash crop grown above former inland rice fields in middle St. John’s Parish. From 1838 to 1844, Gibbs devoted only two acres each year to rice cultivation, which produced poor yields of five to eight bushels per year. A series of droughts and compromised harvests, beginning in 1838 and lasting until 1842, prevented Gibbs from paying off his mortgage. Eventually the crop failures led him to bankruptcy and forced him to sell the plantation at auction in February 1843. Despite Gibbs’ failure as a planter, he paid rent and continued to live on the property until December 1844, when he and his family moved to Jericho.
Example of a daily labor schedule on Jericho Plantation, Mathurin Guerin Gibbs Plantation Register, Bethera, South Carolina, November 1846, courtesy of the South Carolina Historical Society. The schedule indicates gender-specific tasks of women turning the rice fields while men clear drainage canals.
Entry for November 17, 1846: &ldquoTurned ground in the rice fields three women did a half acre. One hand splitting rails 100 rails the task one hand waggoning old rails to make fence across the dam next to hell hole (swamp).&rdquo
Entry for November 19, 1846: &ldquoRain prevented thrashing to-day, employed the women in turning the rice field, a half acre was their task the men in clearing out the canal.&rdquo
Enslaved Africans at Jericho
Between 1812 and 1824, Jericho’s enslaved population grew from forty people to 136 people. In 1832, the population reached 152 people. This significant population of enslaved African American laborers generated a diverse agricultural output. Cultivators grew rice, cotton, corn, and peas, and raised cattle and other livestock. Those assigned to grow rice tended to a variety of responsibilities, such as turning fields, clearing canals, sowing seeds, and hoeing fields, coordinated with the agricultural season. Based on Ball inventory records, several Jericho slaves had specific titles like driver, trunk minder, carpenter, cattle tender, and nurse.
By the time of Gibbs’ ownership of Jericho in the late 1840s, the enslaved population dropped significantly. This change stemmed from the Ball family selling enslaved people to collect on the estate of Isaac Ball. The Ball family then leased the plantation to Gibbs, who had to supply his own labor force. During Gibbs’ residence at Jericho, only twenty enslaved people lived on the property. Because of the limited labor force, enslaved rice cultivators had to take on more responsibilities compared to a traditional inland rice plantation system.
Gibbs had limited knowledge of growing rice and relied on an enslaved African American driver named Billy to coordinate the agricultural schedule. According to Gibbs’ plantation journal, Billy was of old age and had worked as field hand for many years at Jericho under earlier owners before he became a driver for Gibbs. This experience made him knowledgeable of the subtleties of growing rice in this precarious environment, particularly in terms of field preparation, sowing seeds, flooding, and harvesting.
Description of a slave sale and the enslaved labor force at Jericho Plantation, Mathurin Guerin Gibbs Plantation Register, Bethera, South Carolina, January 14, 1845, courtesy of the South Carolina Historical Society. Gibbs notes that "Old Billy," a driver, is a "skillful manager" of rice agriculture.
Last sentence of excerpt: &ldquoTo these negroes we have added Old Billy, as a driver, making the whole force we wield 9 in number: two field hands and a ploughboy, with the driver, who is unable to work, but appears to be a skillful manager.&rdquo
Unlike a general rice cultivation model, where women and men performed separate tasks, the limited labor force at Jericho in the 1840s meant that enslaved laborers had to share cultivation responsibilities at this site. Gibbs, under Billy’s direction, had his field hands sowing rice from the third week of April to mid-May. Jericho slaves worked one field at a time, varying the amount of effort dedicated to total acreage, depending on weather and laborers’ health. First, men and women chopped the turned soil with hoes, which loosened the earth and aerated the ground. Traditionally women performed this task, while the men followed behind them to lay out staked guidelines to designate rows and trenches. Simultaneously, other men cleared the drains of accumulated debris to enable efficient water control on and off the fields. The amount of land worked, depending on the variables described, wavered between one acre and one and three-quarter acres, for six hands. Once a field was staked, women followed behind the men and planted rice seeds in the rows. They then smoothed the soil for aesthetic uniformity and efficient water flow. From late spring through the summer, both men and women would remove weeds in between the three controlled floodings of rice fields (documented under “Inland Rice Cultivation”).
Example of daily labor schedule on Jericho Plantation, Mathurin Guerin Gibbs Plantation Register, Bethera, South Carolina, April 12, 1845, courtesy of the South Carolina Historical Society. Schedule indicates gender-specific tasks of men trenching the rice fields while the women sow rice seeds.
Entry for April 12, 1845: &ldquoContinued sowing rice and trenching the fields sowed one acre in that grain. The task of a full hand in trenching is 3/4 th of an acre with my small force, I employ three males in trenching for two days, then turn all into sow and cover, two families on the days that the men trench, sow and cover one acre of rice so that the sowing is regularly continued when the males join in covering, the whole force does two acres and a quarter."
The Gibbs family and their enslaved residents worked Jericho until 1855. Mathurin Gibbs contracted malaria in the summer of 1848, struggled for almost a year with “violent” colds and swelling of the face, and experienced difficulty with walking, until his death in May 1849. Ultimately, the unhealthy landscape at Jericho, with its expansive wetlands providing breeding grounds for anopheles mosquitoes, killed Gibbs. In 1855, Mathurin’s widow, Maria, and her youngest son Frederic moved to Windsor where their enslaved laborers practiced rice cultivation anew. Windsor’s less isolated location and close proximity to Hyde Park Plantation, where the Gibbs’ eldest daughter Maria Louisa lived with her husband John Ball, appealed to Maria Gibbs. The Gibbs and Ball family ties strengthened further when Mathurin and Maria’s two younger daughters each married a Ball father and son. Mary Huger Gibbs married William James Ball, of Limerick, and Catherine Theus Gibbs married William James Ball Jr., oldest son from his father’s first marriage to Julia Cart. Jericho remained uninhabited through the Civil War until timber baron C.G. McCay bought the property from the Ball family in 1870. McCay logged Jericho, along with surrounding land, until the turn of the twentieth century.
Former site of Jericho Plantation, image by Hayden Smith, Bethera, South Carolina, 2014. T his embankment separates two former rice fields, and is divided by a trunk slough.
The Walls of Jericho
Alabama’s Forever Wild Program purchased the 12,500-acre Alabama section of the property from The Nature Conservancy. It is now known as the Skyline Wildlife Management Area and is open for public access. The protected area encompasses the headwaters of the globally significant Paint Rock River.
In 2006, The Nature Conservancy also transferred the 8,900-acre Tennessee tract to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to be the Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area. The State Natural Areas Program of the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation co-manages 750 acres of the Walls of Jericho and its surrounding creek basin within the Bear Hollow Wildlife Management Area. The Walls of Jericho site is designated as a Tennessee State Natural Area. The entire 8,900-acre area is open for public access.
The Walls of Jericho area was originally owned by the Texas oil magnate Harry Lee Carter, who acquired 60,000 acres in Franklin County, Tenn., and Jackson County, Ala., in the 1940s.
For years, up until 1977 when the Walls of Jericho were closed to the public, the Tennessee property had been open to the public for recreational use and managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Now, this special place is once again open to the public.
The Carter Lands region lies in the heart of the Southern Cumberlands and totals 60,000 acres.
About the Walls of Jericho
The Walls of Jericho tract links large, protected, intact forestlands within the Southern Cumberlands, for a total of more than 50,000 acres of protected lands.
Nearby protected areas include Franklin State Forest, Carter Caves State Natural Area, University of the South at Sewanee, The Nature Conservancy’s David Carter tract, Skyline Wildlife Management Area.
This project protects the headwaters of the Paint Rock River.
Work on this property is a joint effort between the Tennessee and Alabama chapters of The Nature Conservancy and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The Southern Cumberlands and the Paint Rock River
Jackson County, Ala., has the highest concentration of caves of any county in the United States. This area is the epicenter of the rare Tennessee cave salamander.
The upper Paint Rock River watershed, including the Walls of Jericho area, is one of the few intact large functional landscapes remaining in the Southeast.
The Paint Rock River is home to 100 species of fish and about 45 mussel species:
- Five globally imperiled mussels and 12 globally rare mussels are found in the Paint Rock River and its tributaries.
- Two of the mussel species (pale lilliput and Alabama lampshell) are found nowhere else in the world, and one fish species (palezone shiner) is confined to the Paint Rock River and one stream in Kentucky.
- Three globally imperiled fish (sawfin shiner, blotchside logperch and snail darter) occur in the Paint Rock River.
The area provides important habitat for migratory songbirds, such as the cerulean warbler, and for non-migratory birds, such as ruffed grouse.
Apollo 11 Cave Stones
All evidence points to Africa as the origin of our species … is Africa also the birthplace of art?
Apollo 11 Cave Stones, Namibia, quartzite, c. 25,500–25,300 B.C.E. Image courtesy of State Museum of Namibia.
A significant discovery
Location of the Huns Mountains of Namibia, © Map Data Google
Indirect dating techniques
While more recent discoveries of much older human artistic endeavors have corrected our understanding (consider the 2008 discovery of a 100,000-year-old paint workshop in the Blombos Cave on the southern coast of Africa), the stones remain the oldest examples of figurative art from the African continent. Their discovery contributes to our conception of early humanity’s creative attempts, before the invention of formal writing, to express their thoughts about the world around them.
The origins of art?
100,000 years of human occupation
View across Fish River Canyon toward the Huns Mountains, /Ai-/Ais – Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, southern Namibia (photo: Thomas Schooch, CC-BY-SA-3.00)
The Apollo 11 rock shelter overlooks a dry gorge, sitting twenty meters above what was once a river that ran along the valley floor. The cave entrance is wide, about twenty-eight meters across, and the cave itself is deep: eleven meters from front to back. While today a person can stand upright only in the front section of the cave, during the Middle Stone Age, as well as in the periods before and after, the rock shelter was an active site of ongoing human settlement.
Excavation site of the Apollo 11 stones (photo: Jutta Vogel Stiftung)
The Apollo 11 Cave Stones
Perhaps we have some kind of supernatural creature—a therianthrope, part human and part animal? If so, this may suggest a complex system of shamanistic belief. Taken together with the later rock paintings and the engravings, Apollo 11 becomes more than just a cave offering shelter from the elements. It becomes a site of ritual significance used by many over thousands of years.
The global origins of art
In the Middle Stone Age period in southern Africa prehistoric man was a hunter-gatherer, moving from place to place in search of food and shelter. But this modern human also drew an animal form with charcoal—a form as much imagined as it was observed. This is what makes the Apollo 11 cave stones find so interesting: the stones offer evidence that Homo sapiens in the Middle Stone Age—us, some 25,000 years ago—were not only anatomically modern, but behaviorally modern as well. That is to say, these early humans possessed the new and unique capacity for modern symbolic thought, “the human capacity,” long before what was previously understood.