Genetic ancestry of modern Lebanese dates back to ancient Canaanites. According to a paper published today in the American Journal of Human Gnetics90 percent of genetic ancestry of modern Lebanese is derived from Biblical Canaanites.
Five individuals buried in the ancient port city of Sidon (Saïda, Lebanon) around 3,700 old were studied and the results were compared to the DNA of 99 modern-day Lebanese residents.
As far as the results were concerned, Canaanites race is a mixture of indigenous populations. They settled the Levant region (the region covering much of the modern Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine) 10,000 years ago. The migrants arrived the region around 6,600 and 3,550 years ago.
An additional European-American (Eurasian) element was added in the genetic pool between 1800 and 200 B.C. this the time period where the Bronze age collapsed and Iron Age started.
It is the same time period most scholar believe that Bible was recorded.
Israelite Ancestors or Biblical Villains?
According to ancient Biblical recordings Canaanites were the arch enemies of early Israelites. They conquered Canaanite territory eventually and exterminated their population or defeated them.
Canaanites are identified by the archaeologists as a group of tribes that have different ethnicities. They appeared in the Levant in the starting of second millennia B.C.
They were at several times independent city-states or client states which were controlled by the Egyptians. Their existence is documented in letters from rulers of Bronze age in Egypt, Anatolia, Babylon, and everywhere else in the area.
At the end of Bronze Age in the 12th Century B.C. despite of the massive cultural and political disturbances Canaanites remained present in the region.
They remained in the most powerful port cities along the coast. They were known to the Greeks as Phoenicians.
There is widespread destruction of Canaanite population depicted in the Bible and no archaeological evidence has yet been found.
Many scholars believe that the Israelites who appeared at the beginning of Iron Age, might have originally been Canaanites.
This new study is significant because it is sequencing Canaanite genome.
In this region though, it is quite difficult to obtain ancient DNA(aDNA)from human remains because of the reason that heat and humidity are the biggest enemies of aDNA preservation.
Chris Tyler-Smith. “This is only the tip of the iceberg,”
The research demonstrates that scientists are not able to do attention-grabbing studies on aDNA from Lebanon and nearby areas, says Sanger Institute co-author Chris Tyler-Smith. “This is only the tip of the iceberg,” he adds to this statement. “We’re looking forward to more samples from different places and different time periods.”
As researchers were astonished at the level of genetic stability between ancient Canaanites and modern Lebanese after some 4,000 years of warfare, relocation, and invasion in the area, they caution against making too many assumptions on ancient history based completely on genetic data. “People can be culturally similar and genetically different, or genetically similar and culturally different,” says Tyler-Smith.
Archaeologist Assaf Yasur-Landau, co-director of the Tel Kabri Archaeological Project and author of a upcoming book on the Canaanites, agrees. “Canaanites are still a huge mystery to us, so every study of the Canaanites—whether it’s in genetics, culture, economy, religion, or politics—is something that will tell us tremendously important facts about the makeup of the Biblical world of the first millennium.”