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Concept: Levant

202

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

198

For many, climate change is no longer recognized as the primary cause of cultural changes in the Near East. Instead, human landscape degradation, population growth, socioeconomic adjustments, and conflict have been proposed as the mechanisms that shaped the Neolithic Revolution. However, as Bar-Yosef noted, even if there is chronological correlation between climate changes and cultural developments, what is important is to understand how Neolithic societies dealt with these improving or deteriorating environments. Changes in bifacial stone tools provide a framework for examining some of these interactions by focusing on changing land use practices during the Neolithization process. The results of microwear analysis of 40 bifacial artifacts from early Pre-Pottery Neolithic (EPPNB) levels at Motza in the Judean hills document changes during the PPNA-PPNB transition at the onset of the Levantine Moist Period (ca. 8000 cal B.C.) when conditions for agriculture improved. EPPNB villagers added heavy-duty axes to a toolkit they had used for carpentry and began to clear forests for fields and grazing lands. Sustainable forest management continued for the duration of the PPN until the cumulative effects of tree-felling and overgrazing seem to have led to landscape degradation at end of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic C (PPNC), when a cold, dry climatic anomaly (6600-6000 cal B.C.) may have accelerated the reduction of woodlands. Early PPNB components at sites like Motza, with data from nearly five millennia of Neolithic occupations, show how complex hunter-gatherers and early food producers were able to establish sustainable resource management systems even as climate changed, population increased, and social relations were redefined.

Concepts: Climate change, Change, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Stone Age, Levant, Göbekli Tepe, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A

196

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

65

The Late Bronze Age world of the Eastern Mediterranean, a rich linkage of Aegean, Egyptian, Syro-Palestinian, and Hittite civilizations, collapsed famously 3200 years ago and has remained one of the mysteries of the ancient world since the event’s retrieval began in the late 19(th) century AD/CE. Iconic Egyptian bas-reliefs and graphic hieroglyphic and cuneiform texts portray the proximate cause of the collapse as the invasions of the “Peoples-of-the-Sea” at the Nile Delta, the Turkish coast, and down into the heartlands of Syria and Palestine where armies clashed, famine-ravaged cities abandoned, and countrysides depopulated. Here we report palaeoclimate data from Cyprus for the Late Bronze Age crisis, alongside a radiocarbon-based chronology integrating both archaeological and palaeoclimate proxies, which reveal the effects of abrupt climate change-driven famine and causal linkage with the Sea People invasions in Cyprus and Syria. The statistical analysis of proximate and ultimate features of the sequential collapse reveals the relationships of climate-driven famine, sea-borne-invasion, region-wide warfare, and politico-economic collapse, in whose wake new societies and new ideologies were created.

Concepts: Mediterranean Sea, Turkey, Ancient Egypt, Egypt, Bronze Age, Levant, Nile, Mesopotamia

48

In this article, we focus on the analysis of dyed textile fragments uncovered at an early Iron Age (11th-10th centuries BCE) copper smelting site during new excavations in the Timna Valley conducted by the Central Timna Valley (CTV) Project, as well as those found by the Arabah Expedition at the Hathor Temple (Site 200), dated to the Late Bronze/early Iron Ages (13th-11th centuries BCE). Analysis by HPLC-DAD identified two organic dyestuffs, Rubia tinctorum L. and indigotin, from a plant source (probably Isatis tinctoria L.). They are among the earliest plants known in the dyeing craft and cultivated primarily for this purpose. This study provides the earliest evidence of textiles dyed utilizing a chemical dyeing process based on an industrial dyeing plant from the Levant. Moreover, our results shed new light on the society operating the copper mines at the time, suggesting the existence of an elite that was interested in these high quality textiles and invested efforts in procuring them by long-distance trade.

Concepts: Iron, Copper, Bronze Age, Levant, Smelting, Mesopotamia, Iron Age, 2nd millennium BC

44

Rare mitochondrial lineages with relict distributions can sometimes be disproportionately informative about deep events in human prehistory. We have studied one such lineage, haplogroup R0a, which uniquely is most frequent in Arabia and the Horn of Africa, but is distributed much more widely, from Europe to India. We conclude that: (1) the lineage ancestral to R0a is more ancient than previously thought, with a relict distribution across the Mediterranean/Southwest Asia; (2) R0a has a much deeper presence in Arabia than previously thought, highlighting the role of at least one Pleistocene glacial refugium, perhaps on the Red Sea plains; (3) the main episode of dispersal into Eastern Africa, at least concerning maternal lineages, was at the end of the Late Glacial, due to major expansions from one or more refugia in Arabia; (4) there was likely a minor Late Glacial/early postglacial dispersal from Arabia through the Levant and into Europe, possibly alongside other lineages from a Levantine refugium; and (5) the presence of R0a in Southwest Arabia in the Holocene at the nexus of a trading network that developed after ~3 ka between Africa and the Indian Ocean led to some gene flow even further afield, into Iran, Pakistan and India.

Concepts: Human, Africa, Indian Ocean, Jordan, Prehistory, Red Sea, Levant, Somalia

40

Modern human dispersal into Europe is thought to have occurred with the start of the Upper Paleolithic around 50,000-40,000 y ago. The Levantine corridor hypothesis suggests that modern humans from Africa spread into Europe via the Levant. Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon), with its deeply stratified Initial (IUP) and Early (EUP) Upper Paleolithic sequence containing modern human remains, has played an important part in the debate. The latest chronology for the site, based on AMS radiocarbon dates of shell ornaments, suggests that the appearance of the Levantine IUP is later than the start of the first Upper Paleolithic in Europe, thus questioning the Levantine corridor hypothesis. Here we report a series of AMS radiocarbon dates on the marine gastropod Phorcus turbinatus associated with modern human remains and IUP and EUP stone tools from Ksâr 'Akil. Our results, supported by an evaluation of individual sample integrity, place the EUP layer containing the skeleton known as “Egbert” between 43,200 and 42,900 cal B.P. and the IUP-associated modern human maxilla known as “Ethelruda” before ∼45,900 cal B.P. This chronology is in line with those of other Levantine IUP and EUP sites and demonstrates that the presence of modern humans associated with Upper Paleolithic toolkits in the Levant predates all modern human fossils from Europe. The age of the IUP-associated Ethelruda fossil is significant for the spread of modern humans carrying the IUP into Europe and suggests a rapid initial colonization of Europe by our species.

Concepts: Human, Africa, Thought, Chimpanzee, Neanderthal, Pleistocene, Prehistory, Levant

27

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

25

Near Eastern wild boars possess a characteristic DNA signature. Unexpectedly, wild boars from Israel have the DNA sequences of European wild boars and domestic pigs. To understand how this anomaly evolved, we sequenced DNA from ancient and modern pigs from Israel. Pigs from Late Bronze Age (until ca. 1150 BCE) in Israel shared haplotypes of modern and ancient Near Eastern pigs. European haplotypes became dominant only during the Iron Age (ca. 900 BCE). This raises the possibility that European pigs were brought to the region by the Sea Peoples who migrated to the Levant at that time. Then, a complete genetic turnover took place, most likely because of repeated admixture between local and introduced European domestic pigs that went feral. Severe population bottlenecks likely accelerated this process. Introductions by humans have strongly affected the phylogeography of wild animals, and interpretations of phylogeography based on modern DNA alone should be taken with caution.

Concepts: Wild boar, Ancient Egypt, Western Asia, Bronze Age, Levant, Mesopotamia, Iron Age, Ancient Near East

25

The Levant is a region in the Near East with an impressive record of continuous human existence and major cultural developments since the Paleolithic period. Genetic and archeological studies present solid evidence placing the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula as the first stepping-stone outside Africa. There is, however, little understanding of demographic changes in the Middle East, particularly the Levant, after the first Out-of-Africa expansion and how the Levantine peoples relate genetically to each other and to their neighbors. In this study we analyze more than 500,000 genome-wide SNPs in 1,341 new samples from the Levant and compare them to samples from 48 populations worldwide. Our results show recent genetic stratifications in the Levant are driven by the religious affiliations of the populations within the region. Cultural changes within the last two millennia appear to have facilitated/maintained admixture between culturally similar populations from the Levant, Arabian Peninsula, and Africa. The same cultural changes seem to have resulted in genetic isolation of other groups by limiting admixture with culturally different neighboring populations. Consequently, Levant populations today fall into two main groups: one sharing more genetic characteristics with modern-day Europeans and Central Asians, and the other with closer genetic affinities to other Middle Easterners and Africans. Finally, we identify a putative Levantine ancestral component that diverged from other Middle Easterners ∼23,700-15,500 years ago during the last glacial period, and diverged from Europeans ∼15,900-9,100 years ago between the last glacial warming and the start of the Neolithic.

Concepts: Arabian Peninsula, United Arab Emirates, Middle East, Islam, Western Asia, Jordan, Near East, Levant