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29 Julio 2017, 05:09 | Verda Sainz
Ancient DNA counters biblical account of the mysterious Canaanites
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. The researchers then compared the genetic sequences of these ancient Canaanites with those of 99 modern Lebanese people, as well as with ancient DNA sequences of more than 300 other people from an ancient DNA database. For instance, massive invasions from people in the Asian steppes left only about 10 percent of their DNA in the modern inhabitants of Lebanon, according to the analysis. Yasur-Landau is also the author of a forthcoming book about the Canaanites. As much as 93 percent of the Lebanese genome is shared with their Canaanite predecessors, while 7 percent can be pinned down on Steppe peoples found in what is now Russian Federation.
Thus, to the limited extent that the Old Testament can be considered a historical record, the Middle Eastern people known as the Canaanites were on the wrong side of the war.
Dr Cooper said the new study provides valuable insight into when shifts in the population occurred in the Near East in ancient times.
The Canaanites, a Semitic-speaking people, were at the center of Bronze Age civilization and "inhabited an area bounded by Anatolia to the north, Mesopotamia to the east, and Egypt to the south, with access to Cyprus and the Aegean through the Mediterranean", according to the study.
And Judges 1:27-33 asserts that the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher and Nephtali did not drive out the Canaanites, who "lived among them".
To extract enough DNA for the study, the researchers targeted bone found at the base of the human skull, which is extra dense and was very recently identified as a good source of DNA long after it has decayed elsewhere in the skeleton.
All three newspapers cite Deuteronomy 20:17 - where God commands the Israelites to "destroy" the occupants of the Promised Land - as evidence that the Israelites actually did so.
For God had ordered the Israelites to slaughter the apparently sinful Canaanites, saying: "You shall not leave alive anything that breathes". "However, no archaeological evidence has so far been found to support widespread destruction of Canaanite cities between the Bronze and Iron Ages". Indeed, the community survived remarkably intact and its direct descendants today comprise much of the population of modern-day Lebanon. Then they further narrowed it down and compared the ancient DNA with DNA samples extracted from a sample of 99 people - Christians, Druze, and Muslims - now living in Lebanon.
"What we see is that since the Bronze Age, this ancestry, or the genetics of the people there, didn't change much", Dr. Haber said. 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. "This method of extraction combined with the lowering costs of whole genome sequencing made this study possible". Dr. Haber had chosen more than two dozen bones from the site that looked promising and had them investigated for genetic material.
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