Proving History Through Science -- Phoenician’s Reborn through the DNA "Alphabet," the Y Chromosome
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Summary of The National Geographic study (NGM), October 2004 & the HLA study tracing ancient origins of the Lebanese to old Mediterranean substratum

The NGM Study "Who were the Phoenicians" and the Return of the Phoenicians1,2

28% of the Lebanese is Phoenician
Interested in tracing your genetic origin? Read about the Genographic Project were you can get your DNA tested.
Breaking News: Phoenicians Left Deep Genetic Mark, report in the New York Time, DNA Legacy report on BBC & Naharnet. 1 in 17 men living today on the coasts of North Africa and southern Europe have Phoenician ancestor & BBC's proto-Phoenician script. Also, there is the Divided Lebanon's common genes on BBC.

Proving history through science
"The Phoenicians are returning." That is what DNA research tells us through recent studies. Historical credence to their existence and their history is being restored through scientific means. What has been discovered indicates that the genetic make up of the Lebanese, especially those of the coastal areas, is Phoenician. Further, it was discovered that various percentages of the inhabitants of the islands of Malta, Sardinia, as well as parts of ancient Carthage in Tunisia, Gibraltar, Spain and the islands of the Aegean are of Phoenician origin, also.

What's it all about?
Genetic research underway in Lebanon and other locations around the Mediterranean basin proves that the Lebanese carry Phoenician genetic identifiers and belong to both Muslims and Christian sects of the country. Further, preponderance of these identifiers is predominant among the people of the coastal areas. What is also evident is that there were three major genetic "waves" that had an impact on the population of Lebanon. These waves were European through the Crusades, Arab through the Conquest of Islam from the Arabian Peninsula and Turkish through the Seljuk Turks invasion from Central Asia.

There are unique and specific genetic distinctions that are evident in some regions or towns in Lebanon where their Christian or Muslim population maintained distinctive genetic identifiers.

The study is not, as yet, complete and is headed by Dr. Pierre Zalloua, geneticist at the American University of Beirut. His project is sponsored by the National Geographic Magazine to explore the truth about the origin of the Phoenicians.

The "curse" and the paradox
Among the historical trivia regarding the mysterious Phoenicians is, though they invented the alphabet and spread it around the ancient world, their written works were mostly lost. What the world knows about them is through their enemies or competitors – the Greeks and Romans.

Maybe, because of their lost records and to break that "curse", a new alphabet came about to resurrect them. That is through a different alphabet, the molecular letters of DNA. This special alphabet reads the Y chromosome.

The research study
Dr. Pierre Zalloua, who came up with the idea, and his research partner, National Geographic Emerging Explorer Spencer Wells started work two years ago on this study sponsored by the National Geographic Magazine with $1,000,000. The objectives of the study pursue the precise reading of the genetic makeup of the Lebanese and populations from the Mediterranean basin where they established colonies. The study, that extends over five or six years, attempts to prove the genetic relationship between Phoenicians of the colonies of Carthage, Malta, Sardinia Cadiz, Marseilles and others with those of the homeland of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos or the Phoenician homeland. Further, the study aims to prove that all these Phoenician Canaanites belong to the same genetic origin and are those that settled the eastern Mediterranean 5,000 years ago.

The way through which the objectives will be achieved is through tracing part of the Y chromosome that does not mutate. Men transmit it to their sons, generation after generation without any change. It is a fixed marker that does not break throughout history.

Points of reference
The reference of the genetic prototype for the Phoenician makeup is based on human remains discovered in Turkey, as well as a human jaw—perhaps up to 4,000 years old—found in a mountain cave at Raskifa, Lebanon. Additional human remains are used, as well, for constructing a clear image of the Phoenician genetic point of reference. What is known at this point is that haplogroup J2 (M172) is this point of reference. Haplogroup J2 is found frequently in Lebanon, Greece, Turkey (aboriginal not Seljuk), Italy, and the Caucus region6,7,8,9,10.

Zalloua and Wells had to go to the Turkey National Museum to get DNA samples from a Phoenician sarcophagus, since Lebanon’s National Museum shamfefully denied their request for a sample. Dr. Zalloua had to admit that he was disappointed in the lack of cooperation he received from the archaeologists in Lebanon. “They did not believe in our cause, that we are all one or at least have a common ancestral background, and hence, should not fight about that.”

Some details
This genetic work is relatively simple even though it is going to take many years to analyze after having gathered blood samples exclusively from males of the said population. Up this point, Dr. Zalloua has taken 2,000 blood samples of men in Lebanon in the coastal areas, on one hand, and from the mountains and the Beqaa, on the other hand.

Consequently, based on the bones of the ancients and the DNA of the living the texts of history are about to be verified.

Results and surprises
One of the biggest surprises discovered till now is the genetic relationship between the people of Malta and the people of the Lebanese coast. Genetic similarities between the two groups are so high that they are a cause of amazement and surprise. What this has proven, so far, is the validity of the accounts of Phoenician history, on one hand, against the results of genetic studies in geographical areas of Phoenician colonies, on the other.

Genetic studies underway will clear the mystery of the Phoenicians, and perhaps, embarrass many others. It is going to address a struggle over the history and ancestry of Lebanon which used to be thought of as a struggle over myths.

The AUB Bulletin Today (May  2005, Vol. 6 No. 6) -- official news publication of the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.
'"Because of his experience in and close connection to the Phoenician genographic project, Zalloua was then asked to participate in a much bigger multimillion-dollar global genographic project, which is being funded principally by National Geographic and IBM.* This genetic study, which will incorporate the entire world, was officially launched in Washington, DC, on April 12, 2005, and will entail installing ten bases of research around the world.

"Lebanon, through the AUB Medical Center, was chosen as the center for genetic studies on the indigenous populations of the Middle East and North Africa and Pierre Zalloua was selected at its head. As he explains it, the global genographic project will look into population migration throughout history and the world. 'Human history can also be traced through genes,' he says.

"Zalloua believes the worldwide project will benefit AUB in many ways. “AUB is the project’s only representative in the Middle East and North Africa and consequently will receive substantial publicity as such. The project will hold its general meetings at AUB, and the University will also receive publicity through the publications we expect to issue. In addition, many post-docs, scientists, and research assistants in the field of genetics will come to AUB to participate in the work.”

* Site Editor's Note: Search for the Scientific "Adam," the Genographic Project (GP) study from which geneticist Spencer Wells confirms that Thomas Jefferson, third President of the USA, had Phoenician blood.

Shameful Lebanese Official Indifference
What remains to be ruminated with impunity is why do the authorities of Lebanese National Museum* continue to shamefully ignore Phoenician heritage, at the same time, the Lebanese Ministry of Culture continues to ignore the mission of the National Geographic Magazine and the work of Dr. Zalloua? In addition to declining to give Dr. Zalloua access to Phoenician DNA samples at the National Museum while the terms Phoenicia and the Phoenicians continue to remain anathematized by all official Lebanese government circles.

Acknowledgment
I am personally indebted to Mr. William Serfaty of Gibraltar, author of "Gibraltar, The Pillars of the Phoenicians," who, through my intervention, was so obliging as to assist the National Geographic team and crew in identifying and visiting Phoenician points of interest on Gibraltar. Sadly, William was not recognized by the team or the documentary film crew.

Related PBS documentary
PBS aired a documentary on October 20, 2004, that was shoot alongside collecting materials and photographs for the said issue by the National Geographic team.

* Shamefully, the word "Phoenicians" is banned anathema from the Lebanese National Museum where artifacts are dated and referrenced according to millennia or ages but never using the "forbidden name."

What does the DNA of the Lebanese show?

Simply put the Lebanese are very similar to the Greeks and Italians, HLA phenotype polymorphism in the Lebanese population. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7.

Hôtel-Dieu de France, Laboratoire d'Histocompatibilité, Beirut. The HLA-A, -B, -DR and DQ phenotypes have been defined in a panel of 217 Lebanese. These subjects were all unrelated, belonged to different religious communities and originated from the various provinces of Lebanon. All the broad class I specificities tested, except splits A25(10), B54(22) and B56(22), were present in this panel. When HLA-A and -B antigen frequencies were compared with data on the Caucasoids, Negroids and Orientals, several similarities in antigen frequencies could be found between some frequencies observed in the Lebanese and those observed in the Negroids and/or Orientals. There were no frequencies equivalent to those particular to the Caucasoids. In addition, two groups of class I antigens could be distinguished: a first group (A32, B14, B18, B35, B38, B39, B41 and B50) showing higher frequencies, and a second group (A31, B27, B60 and B62) showing lower frequencies than those observed in the Caucasoids, Negroids and Orientals. However, when analysed separately, several mediterranean ethnic groups, notably the Greeks and Italians, have a frequency profile equivalent to that of the Lebanese, with the exception of the B41 specificity, which is particularly high in the Lebanese (14.2%). The data concerning the class II antigens are the most interesting. All the specificities were present in the panel. The HLA-DR5 is the highest frequency of DR antigens in the present panel (58.9%) and nearly all DR5 positive individuals are DR11. The DR11 allele accounts for 33.1% of the total DR gene frequency. The highest DQ antigen frequency is that of DQ3 (76.4%), the majority of which is DQ7 (66.4%). We observed a high DR11-DQ7 haplotype frequency (29.4%) with a significant delta value for linkage disequilibrium. There is no linkage disequilibrium between B41 and DR11. The commonly observed linkage disequilibrium between the DQ5 allele, and the DR1, DR2, DR10 and DR14 alleles are not significant in this Lebanese panel.
Source: HLA phenotype polymorphism in the Lebanese population. Mansour I, Klaymé S, Naman R, Loiselet J, Hallé L , Kaplan C. PMID: 8950804 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Older Mediterranean Substratum Genetic Origins of the Lebanese3,4

The research
Researchers from the Department of Immunology and Molecular Biology, H. 12 de Octubre, at the "Universidad Complutense", from Madrid, Spain, and Tissue Typing Laboratory Institute of Blood Transfusion, Skopje, Republic of Macedonia, conducted the first genetic research on a number of groups of people from various areas around the Mediterranean, the Near East and Africa. Though their study focused on the Macedonians vis-à-vis other population, the result of the study brought about interesting and remarkable results regarding the origins of the Lebanese.

HLA (Human Leucocyte Antigens) alleles have been determined in individuals from the Republic of Macedonia by DNA typing and sequencing. HLA-A, -B, -DR, -DQ allele frequencies and extended haplotypes have been for the first time determined and the results compared to those of other Mediterraneans.

Samples studied
The study used the following samples for their calculations: 172 unrelated ethnic Macedonians from Skopje; 98 Moroccans; 98 Berbers; 94 Moroccan Jews; 176 Spaniards; 80 Basques; 228 Portuguese; 179 French; 102 Algerians; 91 Sardinians; 284 Italians; 80 Ashkenazi Jews; 80 non-Ashkenazi Jews; 135 Cretans; 85 Greeks from the Aegean; 95 Greeks from Attica; 101 Greeks from Cyprus; 59 Lebanese from Niha el Shouff; 93 Lebanese from Kafar Zubian; 100 Iranians; 228 Turks; 105 Armenians; 101 Egyptians from Siwa; 83 Oromo; 98 Amhara; 38 Fulani; 39 Rimaibe; 42 Mossi; 77 San (Bushmen); 192 Senegalese; and 86 South African Blacks.

Conclusion
The major conclusion reached that relates to the Lebanese indicates that they belong to the "older" Mediterranean substratum. This means that the Lebanese share the same genetic identifiers like the Macedonians*, Iberians (including Basques), North Africans, Italians, French, Cretans, Jews, Anatolians (aboriginal Turks), Armenians and Iranians.

Sources:

  1. "Who were the Phoenicians." National Geographic (October 2004)
  2. Bazzi, Yousef, Al-Mustaqbal, Tuesday, September 12, 2004, Number 1721 page 1 (adapted translation)
  3. "Are We Phoenicians After All?" The AUB Bulletin Today (May  2005, Vol. 6 No. 6)
  4. Stojkovski, Dragi, Macedonian Herald, November-December, 2001, Toronto
  5. Arniaz-Villena, et al. "HLA genes in Macedonians..." Tissue Antigens, February 2001, volume 57, issue 2, pages 118-12
  6. Cinnioglu, C. et al. (2004), Excavating Y-chromosome haplotype strata in Anatolia, Human Genetics 114(2):127-48.
  7. Semino, O. et al. (2004), Origin, diffusion, and differentiation of Y-chromosome haplogroups E and J: inferences on the neolithization of Europe and later migratory events in the Mediterranean area, American Journal of Human Genetics 74(5):1023-34.
  8. King, R. and Underhill, P.A. (2002), Congruent distribution of Neolithic painted pottery and ceramic figurines with Y-chromosome lineages, Antiquity 76:704-714
  9. Di Giacomo, F. et al. (2003), Clinal patterns of human Y chromosomal diversity in continental Italy and Greece are dominated by drift and founder effects, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 28(3):387-95.
  10. Nasidze, I. et al. (2003), Testing hypotheses of language replacement in the Caucasus: evidence from the Y-chromosome, Human Genetics 112(3):255-61.

    * Note: The Macedonians (of what today is considered part of Greece, i.e. not the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) consider themselves a race separate and different from the Greeks, Bulgarians or Slavs. Parts of historical Macedonia were taken over by Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania. To learn more about the subject follow the link History of Macedonia.org, a site dedicated to the history and struggle of the Macedonian nation and/or to register any objections regarding this statement.

TV Interview with Dr. Pierre Zalloua on Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) about this study in the Lebanese Language.

To view the full series on YouTube.com, follow the links: Video 1, Video 2, Video 3, Video 4, Video 5

Additional Reading

Additional related material on the origin of the Lebanese and the Y chromosome in Spanish, please see the GENÉTICA Y ANTROPOLOGÍA RACIAL DE LIBANESES -- Anthropology and genetics of the Lebanese in this site.

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