By Stephanie Pappas
The people of modern-day Lebanon can trace their genetic ancestry back to the Canaanites, new research finds.
The Canaanites were residents of the Levant (modern-day Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine) during the Bronze Age, starting about 4,000 years ago. They’re best known from the Old Testament of the Bible, in which they’re described as the cursed descendants of Canaan, blighted by God because Canaan’s father dishonored his own father, the patriarch Noah. The Canaanites were often in conflict with the Israelite tribes that wrote the Hebrew Bible. In fact, the Book of Deuteronomy features Yahweh (God) ordering the Canaanites to be exterminated.
In part because the Canaanites kept their records on easily degradable papyrus rather than clay, little is known about their side of the story. But now, ancient DNA reveals that the Canaanites were the descendants of Stone Age settlers and the ancestors of the Lebanese.
“Canaanite ancestry was widespread in the region,” study researchers Marc Haber and Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom wrote in an email to Live Science, “and several groups who were probably culturally different shared the same ancestral background.”
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