Document Type

Open Access Preprint

Abstract

This paper is a call for DNA testing on ancient skeletal materials from the southern Levant to begin to database genetic information of the inhabitants of this crossroads region. Archaeologists and biblical historians view the earliest presence in the region of a group that called itself Israel in the Iron I period, traditionally dated to ca. 1200-1000 BCE. These were in villages in the varied hill countries of the region, contemporary with urban settlements in the coastal plains, inland valleys, and central Hill Country attributed to varied indigenous groups collectively called Canaanite. The remnants of Egyptian imperial presence in the region lasted until around 1150 BCE, postdating the arrival of an immigrant group from the Aegean called the Philistines ca. 1175 BCE. The period that follows the Iron I in the southern Levant is marked by the development of territorial states throughout the region, ca. 1000-800 BCE. These patrimonial kingdoms, including the United Kingdom of Israel and the divided kingdoms of northern Israel and Judah, coalesced varied peoples under central leadership and newly founded administrative and religious bureaucracies. Ancient DNA testing will give us a further refined understanding of the individuals who peopled the region of the southern Levant throughout its varied archaeological and historic periods, and put forward scientific data that will support, refute, or nuance our socio-historic reconstruction of ancient group identities. These social identities may or may not map onto genetic data, and without sampling of ancient DNA we may never know. A database of ancient DNA will also allow for comparisons with modern DNA samples collected throughout the greater region and the Mediterranean littoral, giving a more robust understanding of the long historical trajectories of regional human genetics and the genetics of varied ancestral groups of today’s Jewish populations and other cultural groups in the modern Middle East and Mediterranean.

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