DNA Reveals Fate of the Biblical Canaanites

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. Apparently. that never happened.

The researchers reported their findings online today (July 27) in The American Journal of Human Genetics at http://bit.ly/2uJUzdw.

A shorter executive summary may be found in the LiveScience web site at: http://bit.ly/2eUiMu1.

7 Comments

Wondering how one would know that the remains were not from one who was exterminated

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Yes God told the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites – but the Bible tells us that they failed to obey. They did not wipe them out (Judges 1:21, Judges 1:28, 1 Kings 9:20-21), but they moved in with them.

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Hmm… I thought Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician cities.
According to friends who lived there recently, some Lebanese today refer to themselves as being of “Syro-Phoenician” ancestry.
Or is this study saying that the Phoenicians (seafaring traders) are the same people as the Canaanite farmers further south? It is certainly possible. But it would be nice to have it spelled out and the evidence explained.
Still, it is interesting that today’s Lebanese have such a close genetic match to these ancient inhabitants (however we choose to label them), considering all of the invasions the area has seen.

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David Paul Davenport July 30, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Could somebody explain how it was possible to match people currently alive with people who lived 3000 or so years ago? Oh, I get it – somebody way back then said “I think I’ll leave my hair brush in a sterile container so that in 2017 people will be able to extract my DNA and match it to somebody alive in 2017.” In my opinion this is complete nonsense.

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    —> Could somebody explain how it was possible to match people currently alive with people who lived 3000 or so years ago?

    Mitochondrial DNA has been extracted from thousands of mummified bodies of people who died many thousands of years ago. It is a rather common procedure. See Archaeology Magazine at http://archive.archaeology.org/9609/abstracts/dna.html for details.

    Once extracted, the ancient DNA can be compared with any other DNA, whether ancient or current as of today.

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David Paul Davenport August 1, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Dick: I don’t wish to “quibble” but the article you cite mentions neither Canaan nor thousands of mummified bodies. May I ask you to post one or more sources that explain how ancient DNA is retrieved? BTW- Wikipedia has published a list of mummies from which mtDNA has been extracted. None of the NINE, and only nine, is identified as Canaanite. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_DNA-tested_mummies)

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    —> May I ask you to post one or more sources that explain how ancient DNA is retrieved?

    You can fund dozens of stories about extracting DNA from mummies if you start at https://duckduckgo.com/?q=extract+dna+mummies&t=hq&ia=web

    Extract DNA from mummies is probably the easiest method but certainly not the only method available. I do know that DNA has often been extracted from the teeth of a skeleton. There was an interesting show on PBS about extracting DNA from a tooth of King Richard III’s skeleton. It showed the technician cutting the tooth in half with what looked like a Dremel tool or something similar, then removing particles from the toot. You probably can watch a rerun of that show if you keep an eye on the TV listings for a PBS station near you.

    The show also is available online at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/resurrecting-richard-iii-full-episode/1934/

    To learn how to obtain DNA samples from recently-deceased people, see an article by noted DNA and Genealogy expert Judy Russell in her Legal Genealogist blog at http://www.legalgenealogist.com/2013/06/30/dna-life-after-death/

    An article at http://mentalfloss.com/article/48815/how-long-does-dna-last states, “Scientists have estimated that under the most ideal conditions, DNA can theoretically survive for a maximum of one million years.”

    All that simply scratches the surface. I suspect you can find many more articles about obtaining DNA from long-dead individuals if you spend an evening or two online searching for articles.

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