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Concept: Lebanon


The Canaanites inhabited the Levant region during the Bronze Age and established a culture that 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 catalog 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 recorded massive population movements in Mesopotamia during the mid-Holocene. 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 that this Eurasian ancestry arrived in the Levant around 3,750-2,170 years ago during a period of successive conquests by distant populations.

Concepts: Mediterranean Sea, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Lebanon, Levant, Syria, Mesopotamia, Mediterranean


Before the Syrian uprising that began in 2011, the greater Fertile Crescent experienced the most severe drought in the instrumental record. For Syria, a country marked by poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies, the drought had a catalytic effect, contributing to political unrest. We show that the recent decrease in Syrian precipitation is a combination of natural variability and a long-term drying trend, and the unusual severity of the observed drought is here shown to be highly unlikely without this trend. Precipitation changes in Syria are linked to rising mean sea-level pressure in the Eastern Mediterranean, which also shows a long-term trend. There has been also a long-term warming trend in the Eastern Mediterranean, adding to the drawdown of soil moisture. No natural cause is apparent for these trends, whereas the observed drying and warming are consistent with model studies of the response to increases in greenhouse gases. Furthermore, model studies show an increasingly drier and hotter future mean climate for the Eastern Mediterranean. Analyses of observations and model simulations indicate that a drought of the severity and duration of the recent Syrian drought, which is implicated in the current conflict, has become more than twice as likely as a consequence of human interference in the climate system.

Concepts: Climate change, Atmospheric pressure, Jordan, Fertile Crescent, Lebanon, Iraq, Levant, Syria


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement of December 2015 aims to maintain the global average warming well below 2°C above the preindustrial level. In the Mediterranean basin, recent pollen-based reconstructions of climate and ecosystem variability over the past 10,000 years provide insights regarding the implications of warming thresholds for biodiversity and land-use potential. We compare scenarios of climate-driven future change in land ecosystems with reconstructed ecosystem dynamics during the past 10,000 years. Only a 1.5°C warming scenario permits ecosystems to remain within the Holocene variability. At or above 2°C of warming, climatic change will generate Mediterranean land ecosystem changes that are unmatched in the Holocene, a period characterized by recurring precipitation deficits rather than temperature anomalies.

Concepts: Climate, Weather, Ecosystem, Climate change, Sustainability, Mediterranean climate, Lebanon, Holocene


The Intermediate Bronze Age (IB) in the Southern Levant (ca. 2350-2000 BCE) is known as the “Dark Ages,” following the collapse of Early Bronze urban society and predating the establishment of the Middle Bronze cities. The absence of significant settlements and monumental building has led to the reconstruction of IB social organization as that of nomadic, tribal society inhabiting rural villages with no central governmental system. Excavation in the Shamir Dolmen Field (comprising over 400 dolmens) on the western foothills of the Golan Heights was carried out following the discovery of rock art engravings on the ceiling of the central chamber inside one of the largest dolmens ever recorded in the Levant. Excavation of this multi-chambered dolmen, covered by a basalt capstone weighing some 50 tons, revealed a secondary multi-burial (of both adults and children) rarely described in a dolmen context in the Golan. Engraved into the rock ceiling above the multi-burial is a panel of 14 forms composed of a vertical line and downturned arc motif. 3D-scanning by structured-light technology was used to sharpen the forms and revealed the technique employed to create them. Building of the Shamir dolmens required a tremendous amount of labor, architectural mastery, and complex socio-economic organization well beyond the capacity of small, rural nomadic groups. The monumental megalithic burial of the Shamir dolmens indicates a hierarchical, complex, non-urban governmental system. This new evidence supports a growing body of recent criticism stemming from new discoveries and approaches that calls for rethinking our views of the Levantine IB “Dark Ages.”

Concepts: Israel, Lebanon, Golan Heights, Yom Kippur War, Syria, Mount Hermon, Gamla


The Phoenicians emerged in the Northern Levant around 1800 BCE and by the 9th century BCE had spread their culture across the Mediterranean Basin, establishing trading posts, and settlements in various European Mediterranean and North African locations. Despite their widespread influence, what is known of the Phoenicians comes from what was written about them by the Greeks and Egyptians. In this study, we investigate the extent of Phoenician integration with the Sardinian communities they settled. We present 14 new ancient mitogenome sequences from pre-Phoenician (~1800 BCE) and Phoenician (~700-400 BCE) samples from Lebanon (n = 4) and Sardinia (n = 10) and compare these with 87 new complete mitogenomes from modern Lebanese and 21 recently published pre-Phoenician ancient mitogenomes from Sardinia to investigate the population dynamics of the Phoenician (Punic) site of Monte Sirai, in southern Sardinia. Our results indicate evidence of continuity of some lineages from pre-Phoenician populations suggesting integration of indigenous Sardinians in the Monte Sirai Phoenician community. We also find evidence of the arrival of new, unique mitochondrial lineages, indicating the movement of women from sites in the Near East or North Africa to Sardinia, but also possibly from non-Mediterranean populations and the likely movement of women from Europe to Phoenician sites in Lebanon. Combined, this evidence suggests female mobility and genetic diversity in Phoenician communities, reflecting the inclusive and multicultural nature of Phoenician society.

Concepts: Africa, Mediterranean Sea, Middle East, Italy, Egypt, Lebanon, Levant, Phoenicia


The Druze are an aggregate of communities in the Levant and Near East living almost exclusively in the mountains of Syria, Lebanon and Israel whose ~1000 year old religion formally opposes mixed marriages and conversions. Despite increasing interest in genetics of the population structure of the Druze, their population history remains unknown. We investigated the genetic relationships between Israeli Druze and both modern and ancient populations. We evaluated our findings in light of three hypotheses purporting to explain Druze history that posit Arabian, Persian or mixed Near Eastern-Levantine roots. The biogeographical analysis localised proto-Druze to the mountainous regions of southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq and southeast Syria and their descendants clustered along a trajectory between these two regions. The mixed Near Eastern-Middle Eastern localisation of the Druze, shown using both modern and ancient DNA data, is distinct from that of neighbouring Syrians, Palestinians and most of the Lebanese, who exhibit a high affinity to the Levant. Druze biogeographic affinity, migration patterns, time of emergence and genetic similarity to Near Eastern populations are highly suggestive of Armenian-Turkish ancestries for the proto-Druze.

Concepts: Middle East, Israel, Jordan, Fertile Crescent, Lebanon, Iraq, Levant, Syria


Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps deployed a field hospital in Port au Prince. The purpose of this study was to characterize the injuries sustained by the pediatric population treated in the hospital and examine the implications for planning deployment in future similar disasters.

Concepts: Medicine, Surgery, Physician, 2010 Haiti earthquake, Lebanon, Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Israel Defense Forces


Cardiac disease is the leading cause of death in Lebanon, accounting for 22% to 26% of total deaths in the country. A thorough understanding of perceptions of cardiac illness and related self-care management is critical to the development of secondary prevention programs that are specific to the Lebanese culture.

Concepts: Death, Coronary artery disease, Heart, Heart disease, Artery, Coronary circulation, Culture, Lebanon


Inter-annual and seasonal variability in climatic parameters, most importantly rainfall, have potential to cause climate-induced risk in long-term crop production. Short-term field studies do not capture the full nature of such risk and the extent to which modifications to crop, soil and water management recommendations may be made to mitigate the extent of such risk. Crop modeling studies driven by long-term daily weather data can predict the impact of climate-induced risk on crop growth and yield however, the availability of long-term daily weather data can present serious constraints to the use of crop models. To tackle this constraint, two weather generators namely, LARS-WG and MarkSim, were evaluated in order to assess their capabilities of reproducing frequency distributions, means, variances, dry spell and wet chains of observed daily precipitation, maximum and minimum temperature, and solar radiation for the eight locations across cropping areas of Northern Syria and Lebanon. Further, the application of generated long-term daily weather data, with both weather generators, in simulating barley growth and yield was also evaluated. We found that overall LARS-WG performed better than MarkSim in generating daily weather parameters and in 50years continuous simulation of barley growth and yield. Our findings suggest that LARS-WG does not necessarily require long-term e.g., >30years observed weather data for calibration as generated results proved to be satisfactory with >10years of observed data except in area with higher altitude. Evaluating these weather generators and the ability of generated weather data to perform long-term simulation of crop growth and yield is an important first step to assess the impact of future climate on yields, and to identify promising technologies to make agricultural systems more resilient in the given region.

Concepts: Sun, Precipitation, Climate, Weather, Climate change, Maxima and minima, Lebanon, Syria


Pre-Pottery Neolithic assemblages are best known from the fertile areas of the Mediterranean Levant. The archaeological site of Jebel Qattar 101 (JQ-101), at Jubbah in the southern part of the Nefud Desert of northern Saudi Arabia, contains a large collection of stone tools, adjacent to an Early Holocene palaeolake. The stone tool assemblage contains lithic types, including El-Khiam and Helwan projectile points, which are similar to those recorded in Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B assemblages in the Fertile Crescent. Jebel Qattar lies ∼500 kilometres outside the previously identified geographic range of Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures. Technological analysis of the typologically diagnostic Jebel Qattar 101 projectile points indicates a unique strategy to manufacture the final forms, thereby raising the possibility of either direct migration of Levantine groups or the acculturation of mobile communities in Arabia. The discovery of the Early Holocene site of Jebel Qattar suggests that our view of the geographic distribution and character of Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures may be in need of revision.

Concepts: Jordan, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Lebanon, Iraq, Levant, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, Jericho