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.
I believe the Phoenicians spoke a Semitic language. And -- as I learned in a linguistics course in grad school some 20 years ago -- the alphabet (as opposed to other writing systems such as the Chinese pictograms or Japanese syllabary) was invented only once: if the Phoenicians didn't develop it (in which case the developers are lost to history), they at least must be given credit for spreading it. Obviously, it went through changes and adaptations as it spread.
"Sea Peoples" ping.
there is room to speculate as to the question of whether the phonencians/caananties were related to the old Hebrews.
Seems to me that I have seen maps of the mesopotamian empires of around 2000 BC that show their boundaries going to modern israel and lebanon.
There are a number of archelogical digs going on currently in Israel which are aimed at settlements of this period. The most important one I think, is at Hazor.
The reason, in part, these digs are important is because the boundaries of these the mesopotamian empires of the third millennium bc +- coincide with the migration of Abraham.
the suggestion is that while abraham moved west from UR he did not move outside of the political boundaries of which UR was a part.
the caananites could well have been a related people to the jews. Therefor, the caananites could have originated in Mesopotamia. certainly when abraham did NOT sacrifice Issac he was going against caananite custom.
later when the old hebrews in the age of kings +-1000 bc-589bc wanted to go native they didn't gobble the gods of the philistines who are said to be greek people. rather they sacrificed their children and put up temples on the mountain tops--as was the custom of the caananites.
anyhow, I'm just speculating.
Except for Laish (Dan), Hazor is the only Palestinian settlement mentioned among the 25,000 cuneiform tablets that compose the royal documents of Mari or Tell Hariri located in modern Syria. Most of these documents connect with the reign of Zimri-Lim, a contemporary of the powerful King Hammurapi of Babylon in the 18th century BCE. So far, there are seven tablets related to Hazor. One of them reveals that Canaanite Hazor was so important that King Hammurapi saw convenient to place two ambassadors there. Other tablets associate Hazor with the trade of tin, for before the revolutionary introduction of iron, tin was essential for the manufacture of bronze weapons.
Joshua destroyed and burned the city of Hazor following his victory over the league of northern Canaanite cities at the "waters of Merom" (Joshua 11:1-11).
Hazor was assigned to the tribal territory of Naphtali (Joshua 19:36).
Deborah delivered Israel from the oppression of Jabin, King of Hazor and his general Sisera (Judges 4-5).
Solomon rebuilt Hazor and fortified it (I Kings 9:15).
The city of Hazor was captured and destroyed for the last time by the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III in 733 BCE (II Kings 15:29).
Strategically located to control the point where trade routes from the north, east and west joined to enter northern Canaan, it is no wonder that, in its heyday, Hazor covered more than 225 acres (making it more than twice the size of Megiddo) and its population numbered close to 40,000.
Texts from Mari (dated to the 18th century BCE) reveal that Hazor had close political and economic ties with Mesopotamia. One text refers to an ambassador of the great lawgiver, Hammurabi, as resident at Hazor, while another mentions Hazor's role in the trade of tin. From the time of the Egyptian New Kingdom (the beginning of the powerful Middle Kingdom 18th Dynasty) until the time of Rameses II, Hazor was a major military objective of those pharaohs who campaigned in Canaan.
Ok this is news to me. Would not one need the DNA of a Phoenician in order to discover where the Phoenician would be today???
This DNA science is very very very interesting.
The languages/alphabets are. Hebrew, Phoenician and Greek are all very similar. Arabic came later but is very similar to Hebrew as well.
There was a theory a while back that Phoenicians were Jews, but that was quickly disproven. They were pagan, but some close to Israel converted to Judaism.
Genetically, I don't know if there is a difference between Jews and Phoenicians but I would imagine that there is. Still, we shall wait and see with that.
this is not what I'm suggesting. if this dna stuff is correct then likely the maltese are much closer to being of the original caananite stock than anyone else in the region.Why because they displaced the people before and there havn't been many other peoples around who came in and wholesale mingled with them. if you look into the faces of palestinians you see that they're as much/bigger hodgepodge of different peoples than are the israelis.
Palestinian isn't an ancient designation, which is what I thought you were talking about.
The Maltese have their own language, not sure what group it's in. Could be a hybrid tongue of some sort, a mixture of Italian, Arabic, Latin, Greek, and whatever else was around. The Maltese Republic has two official languages, Maltese and English, and many Maltese reportedly speak Italian, and some Arabic and whatnot.
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