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Reference: Fortification And Siegecraft


At the date of the Hebrew invasion of Canaan its inhabitants were found to be in possession of 'cities great and fenced up to heaven' (De 9:1; cf. Nu 13:28; Jos 14:12), most of them, as is now known, with a history of many centuries behind them. The inhabited places, then as always, were of two classes, walled and unwalled (De 3:5), the latter comprising the country villages, the former the very numerous 'cities,' which though small in area were 'fenced,' i.e. fortified (the modern term everywhere adopted by Amer. RV), 'with high walls, gates, and bars.' In this article it is proposed to indicate the nature of the walls by which these cities were fenced in OT times, and of the fortresses or 'strong holds' so frequently mentioned in Hebrew history, and finally, to describe the methods of attack and defence adopted by the Hebrews and their contemporaries.

1. The earliest fortification yet discovered in Palestine is that erected, it may be, as far back as b.c. 4000 by the neolithic cave-dwellers of Gezer. This consisted of a simple bank of earth, between six and seven feet in height, the inside face of which is vertical, the outside sloping, and both cased with random stones (Quarterly Statement of the same, 1903, 113, with section plan 116; 1904, 200; for date see 1905, 29). A similar 'earth rampart' was found at Tell el-Hesy, the ancient Lachish.

The Semitic invaders, who appeared in Canaan about the middle of the third millennium, were able with their tools of bronze to carry the art of fortification far beyond this primitive stage. Their cities were planted for the most part on an outlying spur of a mountain range, or on a more or less isolated eminence or tell. In either case the steep rock-faces of nature's building may be said to have been the city's first line of defence. The walls, of crude brick or stone, with which art supplemented nature, followed the contours of the ridge, the rock itself being frequently cut away to form artificial scarps, on the top of which the city wall was built. Consequently the walls were not required to be of uniform height throughout the enceinte, being lowest where the rock scarp was steepest, and highest on that side of the city from which approach was easiest and attack most to be feared. In the latter case, as at Jerusalem, which was assailable only from the north, it was usual to strengthen the defences by a wide and deep trench. Where, on the other hand, the city was perched upon an elevated tell, as at Gezer, Lachish, and in the Sheph

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