Genetics news & views from students enrolled in BIOL 2110 at Stockton University.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Decedents of Biblical Canaanites Identified by Genome Sequencing
According to National Geographic, a genome sequenced from 3,700 year-old remains from large clay jars shows that 90% of modern Lebanese genetic ancestry derives from Canaanites. Canaan was the land that occupies modern day Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Syria and was home to the "large, fierce, and wicked" Canaanites that are portrayed as the arch-enemies of the original Israelites. According to the results of the genomic sequencing, the Canaanite ancestry is a mix of the indigenous peoples of the region from approximately 10,000 years ago and migrants from the east about 6,000 years ago. An additional Eurasian genetic mix occurred somewhere between 1800 and 200 B.C. During this period was the collapse of the Bronze Age and the start of the Iron Age, the era when scholars believe that the Bible was written. Obtaining ancient DNA is extremely difficult, especially due to the heat and humidity of the region. Ancient DNA (aDNA) collection is quickly increasing in popularity due to its historical and archaeological significance. However, because of it age and environment, nucleic acids can become degraded, enzymatic inhibitors become present, , and the risk of contamination of a dig site make extraction increasingly difficult. But with new collection techniques and increased interest, Sanger Institute co-author Chris Tyler Smith declares that "this is only the tip of the iceberg. We're looking forward to more samples from different places and different time periods." Researchers were surprised to find the amount of genetic continuity between the ancient Canaanites and modern Lebanese due to the history of wars, conquests, invasions, and migrations of the area. With new sites and aDNA being studied, the genetic maps of the past can better tell how peoples lived, worked, and mixed and help get a better and more accurate understanding of history.