This may be the oldest continuously occupied city in the world.
The first permanent settlement developed between 10,000 and 9000 BCE. As the world warmed, a new culture based on agriculture and sedentary dwelling emerged, which archaeologists have termed "Pre-Pottery Neolithic A". Circular dwellings were built of clay and straw bricks left to dry in the sun, which were plastered together with a mud mortar. By about 9400 BC the town had grown to more than 70 modest dwellings. Estimates put the population as high as two to three thousand people and as low as two to three hundred. A massive stone wall over 3.6 metres high and 1.8 metres wide at the base was surrounding the town and inside this wall stood a tower over 3.6 metres high, containing an internal staircase with 22 stone steps.
After a few centuries the first settlement was abandoned. A second settlement, established in 6800 BCE, perhaps represents the work of an invading people who absorbed the original inhabitants into their dominant culture. Artifacts dating from this period include ten plastered human skulls, painted so as to reconstitute the individuals' features. These represent the first example of portraiture in art history. At this time, probably the population was already speaking a predecessor of Canaanite languages
, spoken by the ancestors of today Jews and Palestinian Arabs as well as by other peoples in the region.
A succession of settlements followed from 4500 BCE onward, the largest constructed in 2600 BC. In the latter half of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1700 BCE) the city enjoyed some prosperity, its walls having been strengthened and expanded.
Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic and Roman rules followed, the majoritary population being during this time Jewish. In 4th century CE, most Jews converted to Christianity and after the Arab conquest in 7th century the Jews started to convert to Islam and adopt the Arab language, a part remaining in the Christian and Jewish religion. Crussader and Ottoman rules followed, then British administration in 20th century.