2017-07-27 21:39:55 UTC
"For the first time, scientists have deciphered the complete genetic
instruction manuals of Canaanites. By comparing five Canaanite genomes
with those of other ancient and modern populations, the researchers
identified the Canaanites¹ ancestors and discovered their descendants,
modern Lebanese people.
The Canaanites emerged in the Levant, a region east of the Mediterranean
Sea, 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. This cultural group, which established
extensive trade networks and colonies across the Mediterranean region,
left behind few written records, perhaps because they wrote on papyrus
rather than clay. So most knowledge of the Canaanites comes from ancient
Egyptian, Hebrew and Greek documents.
But doubt surrounds some of those accounts. For one thing, Greek
historians thought the Canaanites originated near the Persian Gulf,
whereas archaeological records suggest they arose from farming
communities that settled the Levant up to 10,000 years ago. For another,
the Old Testament makes reference to the destruction of Canaanite
communities, but some of their cities, such as Sidon in Lebanon, appear
to have been continually inhabited through the present day.
Researchers reconstructed the genomes of the 3,700-year-old remains of
five Canaanites unearthed in Sidon. Comparisons of these genomes with
those of other ancient Eurasian peoples indicate that Canaanite ancestry
was split roughly 50-50 between the early farmers who settled the Levant
and immigrants of Iranian descent who arrived later, between 6,600 and
3,550 years ago.
³You¹d need a lot of migration for roughly half of the population to be
replaced by the incoming Iranian-related populations,² says Iosif
Lazaridis, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School who was not involved
in the study. ³This must have been some important event in the history
of the Near East.² One possibility is the spread of the Akkadian Empire,
which controlled a region spanning from the Levant to Iran between 4,400
and 4,200 years ago. That connection may have presented the opportunity
for interbreeding between these far-flung populations.
The researchers also determined that modern Lebanese people can
attribute about 93 percent of their ancestry to the Canaanites. The
other 7 percent comes from Eurasians who probably arrived in the Levant
3,700 to 2,200 years ago. Study coauthor Chris Tyler-Smith, a geneticist
at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, England, was
surprised by how much Canaanite heritage dominated modern Lebanese DNA.
He says he expected to see a more mixed gene pool because so many
populations have crossed through the Levant in the last few thousand