Who Are The Canaanites Today? Surprising History Of The Promised Land

If you are reading this article and by chance you happen to be Jewish, an Arab or a Lebanese, wondering who the Canaanites are today? Then, there is a very good possibility that you owe certain percentage of your genes to the ancient people of Canaan, according to the scientists.

Recent genetic study sheds light on who the Canaanites are today. The DNA of the ancient Canaanites are found in the modern Lebanese, Arabs and Jews says researchers.

Canaanites were the people who inhabited the parts of Levant called Canaan. The modern political boundaries would roughly equate with the regions occupied with today’s Israel, Palestinian territory, Western Jordan and the coast and some inland parts of Syria.

The Canaanites Of Today

On May 2020, researchers at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem have discovered that the modern day Jews and Arabs retain the genetic heritage of the Canaanites. A genomic test was done from the bones of 73 individuals buried at five different Canaanite sites around Jordan and Israel. The skeletons from these areas are more than a thousand years old. The accumulated ancient DNA was compared against with that of modern individuals, which revealed that the 50 percentage of the genetic ancestry of the Canaanites survives in the present day Jews and Arabs living in that proximity today.

to show readers who are the Canaanites today

The research also shed light on the genetic lineage of the Canaanites themselves. Migrants from the Caucasus mountains incorporated and socialized with the primordial population and one half with Chalcolithic Iranians to form the Canaanite culture as we know today.

Further Genetic Data

In 2017, a similar study was conducted by another group of scientists. According to the research paper submitted in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the Canaanites may not have had the fate represented in the bible of being wiped completely.

to show the readers that Canaanite skull being tested to track genetic roots

Canaanite Skeleton. REUTERS

Some of the Canaanites survived the Israeli invasion and now shares more than 90 percentage of genes in the present day Lebanese people. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the biblical citations were wrong. Chris Tyler Smith, one of the leading researcher of the team says, “You can have genetically similar or indistinguishable populations that are culturally very different and don’t get on with one another at all,”. He believes genes don’t track conflict.

Biblical Reference

The Canaanites are often cited in the Hebrew Bible. It is mentioned that, after the Exodus from Egypt, Israelites fought a series of war with the Canaanites and won, which resulted in taking over a majority of the Canaan land that eventually became the present day Israel. The land was promised to Abraham and his descendants by God.

“I have heard them (Israelite) crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey — the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.” (Exodus 3:7)

The Canaan land is mentioned as the land of “Milk and Honey” because of its plentiful natural resources. The origin of the word Canaan is vague but the bible does mention that the land of Canaan was named after the person called ‘Canaan’, the grandson of Noah.

History Of The Canaan, The Land Before The ‘Promised Land’

Way before the biblical Promised land, stood the age old Canaan population which inhibited parts of Levant who might have witnessed the stone age, Neolithic age and the Chalcolithic age pass by.

In 1952, Archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon ventured into the sites of Jericho and excavated to its stone age foundations and showed the world that the Canaanites inhabited parts of Israel, Palestinian territory, Jordan and Lebanon and probably the first to settle in these parts. It is arguably one the oldest known continuously occupied human settlement.

to show readers the archaeological remains of Canaan City

Remains of a Canaanite Palace

The Canaanites hardly left any written records, leaving the world vague about their culture and history. Most of the information about them are from second-hand sources. But we do know that the Canaanites weren’t a unified group. They were divided up into number of tribal groups, city-states and kingdoms. Each with its own cultural traits, political, institutions and social customs. Archaeologists have uncovered a sequence of occupation phases dating at least as far back as the Neolithic age which were roughly between 8500 to 4500 B.C.E.

In case you didn’t know, Neolithic age was the final phase of the stone age and the time humans began to first farm the land. The Canaanites hardly left any written records, leaving the world vague about their culture and history. Most of the information about them are from second-hand sources.

But we do know that the Canaanites weren’t a unified group. They were divided up into number of tribal groups, city-states and kingdoms. Each with its own cultural traits, political, institutions and social customs.

Archaeologists have uncovered a sequence of occupation phases dating at least as far back as the Neolithic age which were roughly between 8500 to 4500 B.C.E. In case you didn’t know, Neolithic age was the final phase of the stone age and the time humans began to first farm the land. Their history probably goes back over before the Neolithic age. Evidence have been found what seems to be a type of sanctum constructed near the spring of Ein as-Sultan. It is thought to be the cause that made hunter-gatherers to finally put down roots in the area.

Initially, Canaanites may have lived in fragile non-permanent tent like dwellings, eventually they built more stable structures using mud bricks. By 10th millennium B.C.E, We see the Canaanite’s early transition from the nomad life of hunter-gatherers to sedentary farmers and domesticators of animals, which are actually hallmarks of Neolithic revolution.

The Egyptian Connection

In 1458 B.C., under the pharaoh Thutmose III, Egypt stormed the parts of Levant and defeated the Canaan provinces. Taking control of the Dead Sea mines, cedar from Lebanon, olive oil and wine from the Mediterranean coast. A lot of people were made slaves and concubines for the Egyptian nobles. Egypt reigned the land for three centuries.

picture to show Egyptian connection of the Canaanites

Gradually Canaan became one of the important Egyptian colonies. They adopted some Egyptian customs along the way. There are archaeological evidence of Canaan potteries and tombs with artistic influence of the Egyptians. Invaders from the sea and severe drought hit Canaan which causes massive scarce of food.  

Visit Canaanite Palace From Your Home

The people of Canaan are definitely a mysterious bunch, Canaanite palace in Israel is definitely a sight to behold. The winds and the remains of the historic buildings speak tales of war and culture. Join Michael Skir on an adventurous virtual tour around Israel and the city of Canaanites to see the wonder. Visit  WorldVTours and book your Virtual Tour now!

 

Sai Anand Writer and Travel Enthusiast 

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