Jericho (Tell al-Sultan) lies in the Jordan rift valley north of the Dead Sea. Although now remembered as the city where Joshua blew his trumpet and the walls came tumbling down, it was an important settlement long before and long after this late second millennium B.C. battle. Jericho is located close to an important spring and was inhabited during the Natufian period between 11,000 and 9,300 B.C. as an encampment from which cereal grains were collected and gazelle were hunted. In the Aceramic or Pre-Pottery B Neolithic Period (7000–6200 B.C.), the site was the largest village in the area, covering three hectares. Jericho is thought to have had a population of perhaps 1,500 people who developed farming of wheat, barley, legumes, and fruit such as figs, and gradually, the herding of sheep and goats. Salt and bitumin were available to the south in sufficient abundance for trade. Although no pottery vessels were made and fired at this time, the clayey, calcareous soil, reinforced with fibrous dried vegetal material, was used as a ubiquitous building material for houses, storage pits, animal shelters and other structures. Sun-dried bricks were developed in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, and they became the common building element.
Variations in the color, texture, and properties of the various soils available to the Jericho villagers were well known, as exhibited by the villagers' use of different materials for specific purposes. Our studies have shown that some calcareous soils were used to make lime plaster; others, with considerable clay and sand, were used for brick and mortar; and others consisting of fine, fairly high shrinkage, montmorillonite clays were used for small objects and figurines whose manufacture required considerable plasticity and fine surface detail.