Ancient DNA to help solve mysteries of the Canaanites

July 27 (PUI) – The Bible mentions the Canaanites, the people of the ancient Near East several times. Archaeologists use the word to describe a group of settlers and nomadic pastoralists living in southern Levant – now Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan – at the end of the second millennium BC.

But exactly who they were, where they came from and what happened to them, remain open questions.

These questions may soon have the answers, but thanks to a new DNA analysis.

For the first time, scientists have sequenced the genomes of ancient cananiens after sequencing the recovered DNA material from five Canaanite individuals living close to 4000 years in present-day Lebanon.

The researchers also sequenced the modern 99 genomes of Lebanon, allowing scientists to establish relationships between modern and ancient residents of the area. They share the results of their analysis this week in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

“We have found that the Canaanites were a mixture of local people who settled in agricultural villages during the Neolithic and Eastern immigrants who came to the region for about 5,000 years,” said Marc Haber, a researcher at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in England. A press release.

“The present-day Lebanese are probably direct descendants of the Canaanites, but they also have a small proportion of Eurasian descent, perhaps for the conquest of remote populations such as the Assyrians, the Persians and the Macedonians.”

During the second and first millennium BC. AD genetic mix focused on the conquest was common. And in fact, the Canaanite received an influx of new genes in the Eurasians between 3800 and 2200 years. Despite this, the Canaanites and their descendants remained quite genetically distinct.

“In view of the extremely complex history of this region over the last few millennia, it was rather surprising that over 90 percent of the genetic ancestry of present-day Lebanese is derived from Canaanite,” said researcher Chris Tyler-Smith.

Genetic and archaeological record suggests that the Canaanite experienced a cultural and genetic continuity of the Bronze Age.

“For the first time, we have genetic evidence for substantial continuity in the area of ​​the Canaanite population from the Bronze Age to our days,” said senior excavator Doumet-Claude Serhal. “This is consistent with the continuity observed by archaeologists.”