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Continuity and admixture in the last five millennia of Levantine history from ancient Canaanite and present-day Lebanese genome sequences

By Marc Haber, Claude Doumet-Serhal, Christiana Scheib, Yali Xue, Petr Danecek, Massimo Mezzavilla, Sonia Youhanna, Rui Martiniano, Javier Prado-Martinez, Michal Szpak, Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith, Holger Schutkowski, Richard Mikulski, Pierre Zalloua, Toomas Kivisild, Chris Tyler-Smith

Posted 26 May 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/142448 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2017.06.013)

The Canaanites inhabited the Levant region during the Bronze Age and established a culture which became influential in the Near East and beyond. However, the Canaanites, unlike most other ancient Near Easterners of this period, left few surviving textual records and thus their origin and relationship to ancient and present-day populations remain unclear. In this study, we sequenced five whole-genomes from ~3,700-year-old individuals from the city of Sidon, a major Canaanite city-state on the Eastern Mediterranean coast. We also sequenced the genomes of 99 individuals from present-day Lebanon to catalogue modern Levantine genetic diversity. We find that a Bronze Age Canaanite-related ancestry was widespread in the region, shared among urban populations inhabiting the coast (Sidon) and inland populations (Jordan) who likely lived in farming societies or were pastoral nomads. This Canaanite-related ancestry derived from mixture between local Neolithic populations and eastern migrants genetically related to Chalcolithic Iranians. We estimate, using linkage-disequilibrium decay patterns, that admixture occurred 6,600-3,550 years ago, coinciding with massive population movements in the mid-Holocene triggered by aridification ~4,200 years ago. We show that present-day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population, which therefore implies substantial genetic continuity in the Levant since at least the Bronze Age. In addition, we find Eurasian ancestry in the Lebanese not present in Bronze Age or earlier Levantines. We estimate this Eurasian ancestry arrived in the Levant around 3,750-2,170 years ago during a period of successive conquests by distant populations such as the Persians and Macedonians.

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