Phoenicians: Forgotten but Not Gone

Article excerpt

Byline: Associated Press

WASHINGTON The ancient Phoenicians may be largely forgotten, but theyre not gone.

Rome destroyed the Phoenicians greatest city Carthage centuries ago, but new genetic studies indicate that as many as one in 17 men living in communities around the Mediterranean may be descended from these ancient mariners.

Originating from what is now Lebanon, the Phoenicians were early seafarers and traders who spread their culture, including a love for the color purple, to North Africa, Spain and other countries around the region. But they seemed to fade from history after being defeated in a series of wars with Rome.

Genographic Research Project scientists led by Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in England were able to locate a genetic marker for the Phoenicians on the male-only Y chromosome.

First they studied references in the Bible and by Greek and Roman writers to determine where there had been Phoenician cities and colonies.

Then the researchers compared the genes of residents in those areas to those of people living in other Mediterranean communities which had not been Phoenician settlements.

They were able to find differences on the Y chromosome that occurred only in the Phoenician-settled areas, affecting more than 6 percent of the population there.

"When we started, we knew nothing about the genetics of the Phoenicians. …