The Y-Chromosomal Footprint Of Phoenicians Throughout The Mediterranean

The Phoenician Alphabet

The Phoenician civilization is understood to be the dominant maritime trading culture between the period of 1550 BC to 300 BC. While they were based out of the Levant, their city-states were spread all across the Mediterranean. The golden age of Phoenician culture and seapower is usually placed around 1200–800 BC. When Cyrus the Great conquered Phoenicia in 539 BC, he divided the Phoenicians into four vassal kingdoms by the Persians: Sidon, Tyre, Arwad, and Byblos. Each flourished, building fleets for the Persians against the Greeks. But their autonomy as distinctly Phoenician people declined after this. The lasting and most important cultural legacy of Phoenicians on modernity is their alphabet. It is generally thought that their alphabet is the ancestor of most modern alphabets.

Okay enough of a history lesson, a team of researchers developed a set of algorithms to detect the subtle genetic impact of historical population migrations. They’ve tested out their formulas on 1,330 men in hopes that they’ll be able reveal the genetic legacy of the Phoenicians. Specifically, they have made a new set of tests that seek out patterns in genetic signatures of modern men. They’ve published their research in the the American Journal of Human Genetics under the title, “Identifying Genetic Traces of Historical Expansions: Phoenician Footprints in the Mediterranean.”

The team sampled Y chromosomes of men from historic Phoenician trading centers in the Mediterranean regions of Syria, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Cyprus, and Malta. After genotyping them, they compared them on 11 STRs and 58 Y-SNPs markers. They weeded out background variation from previous Neolithic migrations, and singled out more widespread Greek colonization events from isolated Phoenician expansions, such as the Phoenician colonization of Tunisia.

The Phoenician Genetic Footprint In the Mediterrenean
The Phoenician Genetic Footprint In the Mediterrenean

The authors were able to detect a half dozen haplotypes and they call them Phoenician Colonization Signals (PCS). PCS3+ is calculated to be the strongest Phoenician-colonization candidate. It is tightly associated with the SNP haplogroup E3b, but it does not show the wide geographic coverage that the other PCS+s demonstrate. Both PCS1+ and PCS2+ score well, although not as strongly as PCS3+. The excess of haplogroup J2, and PC1+ to PS3+ in coastal Tunisia, the site of Carthage, compared to inland Tunisian populations is exceptionally significant, and suggests that the Roman destruction of Carthage did not eliminate the Carthaginian gene pool. So the presence of these seven related genetic lineages in places around the Mediterranean Sea, tell us that where Phoenicians had lived and persisted genetically.

These lineages suggest that the Phoenicians contributed their genes to at least six percent of modern populations of historic Phoenician trading outposts. In fact, one boy in each school class from Cyprus to Tunis may be a direct male-line descendant of the Phoenician traders.

Of course, since this is only a Y-chromosome test, we’re only getting part of the genealogical history. If a Phoenician man fathers only daughters, his Y-chromosome lineage dies out. That means tests likes these can only say something when there’s an unbroken male line in that area. It is certainly possible that more people from Cyprus to Tunis have a Phoenician heritage. Dienekes, a Greek, has a scathing criticism of the paper. This paper explicitly says they didn’t try to seek out Greek expansion but Dienekes outlines six shortcomings, related to Greek expansions, that the paper didn’t factor that would affect these conclusions — he ends his post saying,

“Is there anything of value in this paper? Well, it’s a good idea to try to correlate Y-chromosome distribution with historical rather than pre-historical events. Too bad the authors botched the job, but their paper can at least serve as a reference point for how not to go about doing it.”

    Pierre A. Zalloua, Daniel E. Platt, Mirvat El Sibai, Jade Khalife, Nadine Makhoul, Marc Haber, Yali Xue, Hassan Izaabel, Elena Bosch, Susan M. Adams, Eduardo Arroyo, Ana María López-Parra, Mercedes Aler, Antònia Picornell, Misericordia Ramon, Mark A. Jobling, David Comas, Jaume Bertranpetit, R. Spencer Wells, Chris Tyler-Smith, The Genographic Consortium (2008) American Journal of Human Genetics. DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2008.10.012

4 thoughts on “The Y-Chromosomal Footprint Of Phoenicians Throughout The Mediterranean

  1. The whole paper is based on wrong historical assumptions and axioms. Let’s view the map A, showing “phoenician major colonies, Greek major colonies and Phoenician trade posts”. All of the Palestine area is marked only red, i.e. a “major Phoenician” area. However, it is well documented that Myceneans and other Greeks (and other non-Greeks) lived and traded in that area. I shall only remind you of the Cretans (Philistines) of the Bible, the Greek Decapolis (“ten cities”), the Hellenistic conquest (the Greeks of the New Testament) etc.
    In the same map A, we see that the eastern coast of Aegean see is a blank area, with only a blue dot while everybody knows that there was the cradle of the classical Greek civilization. Also, Sicily has one red dot (Phoenician) and two blue ones (Greek). Does this man that in Sicily, the “Magna Grecia”, the Greeks outnumbered the Phoenicians by 2:1 ?
    In a word, how can the authors claim that they found a pool of pure “phoenician genes”?

    1. The Zone In Red Is The Actual Lebanon and Syria.
      The Beginning of the Phoenicians Was before the construction of Jbeil (Byblos) 7000 BC. To The Mesopotamia Called The Half Moon Fertile, The Phoenicians Extended Our Commercial Trading when The Greeks where afraid to Navigate the sea, The very same Macedonian Alexander The great Claimed to have to honour of being Phoenician, The Very Same Dyonysyos of susyana Prised The Phoenicians For Teaching Others to Trade, Communicate, and Navigate when Men knew no which way to go, Saying that Phoenicians Populated and united a broken word with colonies Under the Jealousy of others, Are You going to say they where wrong too? You should read more History, And Learn more geography, You should stop Your Jealousy, Perhaps You Yourself have a chromosome or two of a Phoenician Origin. And Then What are You going to say?
      What is it that is Hurting You? You know that this kind of hate and envy started the Punic Wars? Same thing! And Don’t get Me started with The Phoenician Mythology Stolen By The Greeks from Our Culture.

    2. The authors never claim they found a pool of pure “phoenician genes…” Have you read the actual National Geographic article?

  2. NOW HIS STUDY DID NOT INCLUDE THE WHOLE PALESTINE only a few samples of north palestine which is to be exact nazarith ” anasera ” ? why mr zalou’a this racial act towards the palestinians? for me i believe that the palestiians are heavilly mixed through out the millenia and it shows IN GENETICS I HAVE THE STUDIES ? IF ANY ONE WANTS IT ? . contact me on my email

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