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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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DNA Study Tracks Ancient Migration to Israel

Friday, August 24, 2018

Israel Chalcolithic culture shiftTEL AVIV, ISRAEL—According to a Live Science report, migrants from what are now Turkey and Iran probably spurred the cultural transformation that occurred between six and seven thousand years ago in the southern Levant. Researchers led by Hila May and Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University, Dina Shalem of Kinneret College and the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Éadaoin Harney and David Reich of Harvard University were able to analyze the genomes of 22 people whose remains were recovered from northern Israel’s Peqi’in Cave. The cave, which measures some 56 feet long and up to 26 feet wide, held the remains of more than 600 people who lived during the Chalcolithic period. The test results suggest that as many as 49 percent of the people in the sample may have had blue eyes, and many were likely fair-skinned as well. Overall, the people in the study had genomes that were closely related to people who lived in Anatolia and the Zagros Mountains. And, while some of the artifacts and ossuaries in the cave are typical of those found in the southern Levant, others look like they could have been made in the northern regions of the Near East. Shalem explained that this cultural shift can now be attributed to an influx of people from the north. To read about another recent discovery in Israel, go to “Gods of the Galilee.”

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