Tel Megiddo

Tel Megiddo. By AVRAM GRAICER – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

“Walk about Zion … number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels … ”

(Psalms 48-12–13)

What distinguished an ancient village or town from a city? One thing, perhaps the most important, was fortifications. Fortifying a settlement reflected the importance attributed to it; fortifications meant that a settlement was worth defending. During the Persian and later periods (from the sixth century B.C. onward), not all cities were fortified. But before that time, in the Bronze and Iron Ages, fortification of cities was almost universal and constituted one of the chief differences between cities and villages or towns.

A settlement was fortified by surrounding it with structures that would keep an enemy out. These structures took different shapes and forms in different periods. They were invented to withstand certain weapons, and when these weapons were improved or new weapons appeared, the fortifications had to be modified to answer the problems created by the new military machinery.

In Biblical times, the primary fortification was the city wall, which surrounded the city on all sides. During the period preceding the Israelite conquest and settlement of Canaan (before 1200 B.C.), cities were surrounded by thick, solid walls. In most cases, these walls had stone foundations with mudbrick superstructures.

Read the rest of BAR Jr.: Five Ways to Defend an Ancient City in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.