Skip to comments.In the Wake of the Phoenicians: DNA study reveals a Phoenician-Maltese link
Posted on 08/21/2005 1:38:08 PM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
In the Wake of the Phoenicians:
DNA study reveals a Phoenician-Maltese link
The idea is fascinating. Who among us hasn't considered our heritage and wondered if we might be descended from ancient royalty or some prominent historical figure? Led by a long-standing interest in the impact of ancient empires on the modern gene pool, geneticist and National Geographic emerging explorer Spencer Wells, with colleague Pierre Zalloua of the American University of Beirut, expanded on that question two years ago as they embarked on a genetic study of the Phoenicians, a first millennium B.C. sea empire thatover several hundred yearsspread across the Mediterranean from the Levant, a coastal region in what is now Lebanon.
Photograph by Robert Clark
Looking for links between the Phoenicians and the people who live around the Mediterranean today, geneticist Pierre Zalloua of the American University of Beirut prepares to extract a tooth from a human jawperhaps 4,000 years oldfound in a mountain cave at Raskifa, Lebanon.
The Romans conquered the Phoenicians during the Punic Wars, destroying much of their culture. "In many ways, they've been quite enigmatic," says Wells. "We know they existed, but we know very little about them. Why did they suddenly arise and start to spread around 1200 B.C.? And what impact did they have on other peoples in the Mediterranean? We've tried to use DNA, the genetic material we all carry in our bodies, to answer those questions."
Supported by a grant from National Geographic's Committee for Research and Exploration, the scientists collected blood samples from men living in the Middle East, North Africa, southern Spain, and Malta, places the Phoenicians are known to have settled and traded. Starting with between 500 and 1,000 well-typed samples, they began looking at the Y chromosome, the piece of DNA that traces a purely male line of descent. The goal was to answer two questions: What was the impact of a group the ancient Egyptians referred to as the Sea Peoples, who apparently arrived in the Levant region about 1200 B.C. just before the Phoenician culture began to flower and expand? And can we use genetics to trace the expansion of the Phoenician empire? What the study has revealed so far, detailed in "Who Were the Phoenicians?" in the October issue of National Geographic, is compelling.
"We're not seeing a significant genetic influence from elsewhere on the coastal population in what was the Levant region," says Wells. "The people are very similar to the groups we see inland in Syria and Jordan, for example, suggesting that there wasn't a huge influx of Sea Peoples or others from outside the area. A cultural shift occurred but not a genetic one. Today's Lebanese, the Phoenicians, and the Canaanites before them are all the same people."
Wells and Zalloua are finding similar results among samples taken in Tunisia, site of ancient Carthage and the largest of the Phoenician colonies. "Less than 20 percent of the genetic lineages found could have come out of the Middle East," Wells continues. "They're showing the markers of aboriginal North Africans. That means the Phoenicians moved into this area and, like the Sea Peoples, had more of a cultural impact than a genetic one."
As DNA samples continue to be analyzed, more revelations are surfacing. "We've just received data that more than half of the Y chromosome lineages that we see in today's Maltese population could have come in with the Phoenicians," Wells says. "That's a significant genetic impact. But why?" At this point he can only speculate. "Perhaps the population on Malta wasn't as dense. Perhaps when the Phoenicians settled, they killed off the existing population, and their own descendants became today's Maltese. Maybe the islands never had that many people, and shiploads of Phoenicians literally moved in and swamped the local population. We don't know for sure, but the results are consistent with a settlement of people from the Levant within the past 2,000 years, and that points to the Phoenicians."
During the next few years, Wells and Zalloua plan to expand the sample size in the Middle East, southern Spain, and northern Africa. "I'm particularly interested in the Phoenician impact on Africa," Wells says. "We know that Phoeniciansto a certain extentcontrolled the trans-Saharan trade routes from their center of Carthage. They also navigated through the Strait of Gibraltar and moved around western Africa. But how far south did they get? And did they leave a genetic trail?" The search continues.
Ping. This article was sent to me by a priest from Malta.
Phoenicians are closest relatives of Jews. From what I hear Hebrew and Phoenician languages/alphabets are very similar.
If that is a Malta ping, add me to your list :)
read later bump
Can we expect the October issue of National Geographic to have additional details?
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thanks Spirited for posting the link:
Blood Type History, Human Migrations (Blam Thread)
USC | July 01, 05 | Dennis O'Neil
Posted on 07/03/2005 1:47:49 PM PDT by Little Bill
Im not Arab, Im Phoenician a common phrase, but flawed concept
dailystar.com.lb | 09/02/04 | Peter Speetjens
Posted on 02/19/2004 8:44:57 PM PST by Destro
Quest for the Phoenicians (National Geographic special)
PBS | Oct 20 2004 | National Geographic
Posted on 10/17/2004 7:53:23 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
The origin of M1 mitochondrial DNA haplotype
University of Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research ^ | Anne Holden
Posted on 06/23/2005 8:57:34 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
Not too long ago I was reading that there was NO Phoenician-Maltese genetic link. It was probably Natl Geographic.
Great links! However, that last one offers the disturbing suggestion that "paternal mitochondria do penetrate the human egg and survive for several hours;" and that mitochondria have sex, in fact may be "sexually rampant." Yikes! This would throw a lot of theory out the window.
Its not surprising that the Sea Peoples left little genetic traces inland in the Levant. The guy looking at a tooth in a mountain cave would not be likely to find traces of the Sea Peoples.
My guess is they populated only those cities which had excellent seaports. Think of the foreign enclaves in China in the 19th century. Although the enclaves tended to be largely European, the merchants and seamen certainly had some sexual interaction with the native Chinese, but genetically it would be a drop in the bucket compared to the general population.
I don't have a Malta list, but I'll try to remember your screen name in case my priest friend sends me any more articles.
The mystery is that a lot of theory got thrown in the window in the first place. ;')
Went to Malta once in the mid '60's, Valetta, I think. About all I remember was that it was dry there.
This was October 2004 and there must have been a number of articles about the Phoenicians in there. There were a number of titles that turned up on Free Republic using the search function -- although none about Malta.
My husband said he knew a worker from Malta when he was offshore in the "oil-bidness" 30 years ago. He said the guy was nuts; said he acted like a crazy Arab. After reading this article, now he knows why! (Hope I didn't offend any Maltese or Arabs with that remark. It was just a joke.)
35 years ago we had a Maltese priest assigned to our Parish in California. He was very nice and was a very accomplished musician. He told us that there were so many priests in his village that all of the new priests were sent overseas to work for the first few years. I wish I could remember his name.
My priest friend, who sent this article to me originally, told me that the Maltese language and the Lebanese language have the same roots. The main difference is that the Lebanese write using Arabic lettering, while the Maltese use Roman lettering. He said the structure was the same.
Ping this for later reading. Very interesting. I am RH negative but was given a shot after my first child was born which made me not a threat to my next child.
"According to the Persians best informed in history, the Phoenicians began to quarrel. This people, who had formerly reached the shores of the Erythraean Sea, having migrated to the Mediterranean from an unknown origin and settled in the parts which they now inhabit, began at once, they say, to adventure on long voyages, freighting their vessels with the wares of Egypt and Assyria..."