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Scientists were able to reconstruct and sequence an ancient genome with the help of DNA collected from five different Canaanites who lived in today's Lebanon about 4,000 years ago

"The origin of the Canaanites is derived from a mixture between local Neolithic populations and eastern immigrants genetically related to Chalcolithic Iranians. We estimate, with the help of carbon decay patterns, that the genetic admixture occurred 6,600-3,550 years ago, at the same time as massive population movements recorded in Mesopotamia during the period" the researchers write

A skeleton of a Canaanite about 3,700 years old from Sidon. From the scientific article
A skeleton of a Canaanite about 3,700 years old from Sidon. From the scientific article

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in reconstructing and sequencing the ancient genome of a Canaanite man with the help of DNA collected from five different Canaanites who lived in today's Lebanon about 4,000 years ago. The researchers, who published their analysis last week in the American Journal of Human Genetics, also reconstructed the genomes of 99 modern Lebanese to try and determine the relationship between the region's ancient settlers and those living there today. "We found that the Canaanites were a combination of local people who settled in agricultural villages during the Neolithic period together with immigrants from the East who arrived in the region about 5,000 years ago," said Mark Haber, a researcher from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Great Britain, who was one of the authors of the study, in an official announcement about the findings.

In the abstract of the article, the researchers write: "The Canaanites settled in the Levant region during the Bronze Age and established a culture that influenced the entire Near East region and beyond. However, the Canaanites, unlike most of the Ancient Near East during this period, left few clear written records, so their origin and relationship to ancient populations and today remain unclear. In this study, we sequenced five complete genomes of 3,700-year-old individuals from the city of Sidon, a central Canaanite city-state on the eastern Mediterranean coast. We also sequenced the genomes of 99 individuals from present-day Lebanon to catalog modern Levantine genetic diversity. We find that an ancient origin from the Bronze Age was common in the region, and is shared by urban populations inhabiting the coast (Sidon) and inland populations (Jordan), who apparently lived in agricultural societies or were nomads."

"The origin of the Canaanites is derived from a mixture between local Neolithic populations and eastern immigrants genetically related to Chalcolithic Iranians. We estimate, with the help of carbon decay patterns, that genetic mixing occurred 6,600–3,550 years ago, concurrent with massive population movements recorded in Mesopotamia during the period. We show that the Lebanese of today share most of their ancestors with the Canaanite population, and therefore this has significant genetic consequences in the Levant at least since the Bronze Age. In addition, we find a Eurasian dynasty in Lebanon that did not exist in the Bronze Age or the ancient Levant. We estimate that this Eurasian origin arrived in the Levant about 3,750–2,170 years ago during a period of successive conquests by distant populations.”

According to the researchers, during the second and first millennium BC there was genetic mixing following conquests and wars of common interest. The aforementioned Canaanites also received a new influx of genes from Eurasian people 3,800-2,200 years ago. However, the Canaanites and their descendants nevertheless remained genetically unique. "Given the extremely complex history of this region over the last several thousand years, it is quite surprising that more than 90% of the genetic ancestry of today's Lebanese is still derived from the Canaanites," noted another researcher, Chris Tyler-Smith.
The genetic and archaeological findings indicate that the genetic and cultural heritage of the Canaanites continued even after the Bronze Age. "For the first time, we have genetic evidence of continuity in this region, from the Canaanite population of the Bronze Age to the present day," researcher Claude Dumah-Serhal added and concluded. "These findings are also consistent with the continuity found by archaeologists."

for the scientific article

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