Ancient Israelites

Ancient Israelites ⃒ Middle East ⃒ Israel ⃒ Epipaleolithic and Neolithic through Iron Age

The Ancient Israelites data were compiled from three sites with long histories of occupation in present-day Israel. The sites expose the bedrock DNA of the Holy Land, where the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam intersect.

Motza Tachtit is a burial site discovered on the outskirts of Jerusalem, present-day Israel, in 2012. It lies 900 meters south-east of the site of Tel Motza, a Neolithic settlement with evidence of rectangular, mud-brick houses, with lime-plastered floors. Only one adult male was discovered at Motza Tachtit. He was buried with the jawbone of a fox placed intentionally under his head. The skeleton was dated to between 9,300 – 8,750 years old. Several more burials have been found at Tel Motza within the walls and under the floors of homes. Genetic analysis suggests that Neolithic farmers from the Levant (modern-day Israel, Jordan and Syria), such as the man discovered at Motza Tachtit, had DNA very similar to the Natufian hunter-gatherers of the preceding Epipaleolithic period. The man from Motza Tachtit had rare South Asian Y chromosome haplogroup H2. This haplogroup has also been found in Neolithic farmers from Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) and Europe, suggesting there were genetic similarities between populations in the Levant, Anatolia and Europe.
A high match to the ancient DNA from Motza Tachtit could mean a genetic link with the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the source of the earliest Israelite king, Saul, as well as the House of David.

Raqefet Cave is situated in a valley close to Mount Carmel in present-day Northern Israel, some 27 kilometers (17 miles) south of the city of Haifa. This 50-meter-long cave was first excavated in 1970, and later excavations have revealed it was primarily a cemetery, used by many generations over hundreds of years. In 2017, radiocarbon dating techniques dated the cave to between 13,000 and 14,000 years old YBP, near the start of the Natufian period.

The location was part of the territory allotted to the Tribe of Manasseh, according to the Book of Joshua.
In 2016, the DNA of five males and one female from Raqefet Cave was sequenced. They ranged in age from younger than twelve to older than thirty. Like all Natufians, the inhabitants of Raqefet derived half of their ancestry from Basal Eurasians. Three of the individuals had Y-chromosomes belonging to haplogroup E1b1, which likely originated in East Africa and is also found in early Neolithic farmers from Jordan. Natufian genomes also show similarity to modern-day populations in Saudi Arabia, as well as the Bedouin nomadic peoples of the Arabian Peninsula.

The cave site of Peqi’in is located in land traditionally occupied by the Tribe of Naphtali in Northern Israel. Twenty-two individuals were sampled from this site. They were carbon-dated to between 5,900 and 6,500 years old. Genetic analysis has shown that these individuals were most closely-related to earlier Levantine populations that have lived in the area since the Neolithic, but around 35% of their DNA also came from Chalcolithic Iranians and Anatolian farmers from the north.

The mitochondrial haplogroups of these individuals were diverse. Seventeen of the twenty-two individuals belonged to haplogroups H, J, N1, T, and K, which form the dominant haplogroups associated with the Neolithic across the Middle East and Europe, having their origins in this region dating back to the Paleolithic. One individual belonged to haplogroup R, which is a common haplogroup worldwide today outside of Africa and is of very ancient ancestry, dating back some 60,000 years. Two individuals belonged to haplogroups I and R, which haplogroups characteristic of the Paleolithic prior to agriculture in Europe. All of the males belonged to Y chromosome haplogroup T (previously called K), a Phoenician signature.

Code: ISR-13
Ancient DNA Hub Reference: Prehistoric Israel
Multicultural Story ID: 20002
Ancient genomes contributing to story: 18 (Gal, Issec, Sarah, Terah, Nahor, Debra, Abraham, Ashkenaz, Meshach, Hagar, Agam, Keturah, Bruriah, Adam, Hanoch, Eber, Haran, Ruth)

Sites: Motza Tachtit, Raqefet Cave, Peqi’in

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