The mysterious Canaanites are quite a source of debate as, although mentioned several times in the Bible, their origin, status, and faith remained open for question. Now, a new series of DNA tests with have just offered an answer to a number of these questions.
For archeologists, the Canaanites were a group of pastoral nomads and settlers which lived in the southern Levant or present-day Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and Syria. They are believed to have lived sometime during the late second millennium BC.
The Mysterious Canaanites Trace Back their Origins to a Mixture of People?
This new study is based on bones found during archeological digs on the southern coast of modern day Lebanon, at the Sidon site. The discovered human remains, dated as being some 4,000 years old, identified as being of Canaanite origins. Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute scientists collaborated with an international team of researchers and conducted a more detailed study of the remains.
Samples taken from the five discovered individuals identified traces of DNA which was later sequenced. The genome data of these people, believed to have lived in the Levant region in 1,700 BCE, was then compared to that of 99 modern-day individuals with a Lebanese ancestry.
According to the results, the modern-day Lebanese population seems to share some 90 percent of their genes with the old Canaanite remains.
This goes quite against the faith attributed to the Canaanites by Ancient Hebrew texts. These describe how cities and settlements in the Canaanite territory were reduced to rubble by the Israelites. However, the people themselves apparently escaped.
Study results also found an explanation for the 10 percent genetic difference to the present-day inhabitants of the same region. According to them, this DNA came from other migrant populations considered to have settled in the area in between 1,800 and 200 BCE.
This period is seen as the time of cultural shift which saw the disappearance of the Bronze Age Canaanites and the emergence of the Iron Age Phoenicians.
“For the first time, we have genetic evidence for substantial continuity in the region, from the Bronze Age Canaanite population through to the present day. These results agree with the continuity seen by archaeologists,” stated Claude Doumet-Serhal, the Sidon site director.
While this new study might offer a possible answer as to the faith of the Canaanites, specialists are still looking to understand and discover this lost culture.
Current analysis results are available in the American Journal of Human Genetics
Image Source: Wikimedia