In addition to apparently having a long line of descendants, the analysis of the ancient DNA indicated the Canaanites themselves were a mixture of local people who settled in farming villages during the Neolithic period and eastern migrants who arrived in the area around 5,000 years ago, according to the study. The scientists then compared the genomes of these ancient individuals to those of 99 Lebanese living in the country, then to previously published genetic data on modern and historical populations in Europe and Asia.
"We show that present-day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population, which therefore implies substantial genetic continuity in the Levant since at least the Bronze Age". In fact, the Canaanites lived among the Israelite people for generations after the initial conquest of the Promised Land. According to biblical accounts, the Israeli tribes satisfied this godly request but even scientists believed that after thousands of years of wars, occupations and intermixing with so many foreign populations, there would be little left of the Canaanite genetic legacy.
The fifth book of the Old Testament, Deuteronomy, marks the Canaanites out as a people to be annihilated on God's orders. "Completely destroy them otherwise they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshipping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God", he said to the Israelites.
But it appears the Canaanites were not wiped out at all.
Had they been destroyed by the Israelites, though, it would have been a form of patricide.
"Clearly the Bible's wrong in the sense of the Canaanites being smited, they were clearly not smit too well", Professor Cooper, who was not involved in the research, said. Although they introduced several innovations into society, including the first alphabet, other than in the Hebrew Bible - where their annihilation is clearly detailed - there are a few mentions in ancient Egyptian and Greek texts.
Now, in research published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, an global team of geneticists has mapped the mass migrations that occurred in this tumultuous region by "reading" the DNA of the region's ancient and modern inhabitants. However, if the Israelites had slaughtered every single Canaanite, it would have been a form of patricide.
The researchers reported their findings online today (July 27) in The American Journal of Human Genetics.
But does the story of the Ancient Canaanite genocide survive the scrutiny of modern science?
However, the degree to which the Canaanite lineage is undiluted was still unexpected, says co-author Chris Tyler-Smith: "In light of the enormously complex history of this region in the last few millennia, it was quite surprising that over 90% of the genetic ancestry of present-day Lebanese was derived from the Canaanites".
"The conclusion is clear", said Iosif Lazaridis, a geneticist at Harvard who was not involved in the study. Haber said the team overcame the climate's challenge by taking samples from the petrous bone in the skull, which is a very tough bone with a high density of ancient DNA. "Collaborations between archaeologists and geneticists greatly enrich both fields of study and can answer questions about ancestry in ways that experts in neither field can answer alone".