Ancient maritime traders of the Mediterranean may have left behind a large genetic footprint in the region, where 1 in 17 men still harbors Phoenician DNA, according to a new study.

The findings could fill a gap in the history of the Phoenician civilization, which originated two to three thousand years ago in the eastern Mediterranean—in what is now Lebanon and Syria—and included prominent traders.

The research team analyzed the Y chromosome of 1,330 men from historic Phoenician trading centers in the Mediterranean regions of Syria, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Cyprus, and Malta.

Analyses of the Y chromosomal data revealed the presence of at least seven related genetic lineages from places around the Mediterranean Sea where Phoenicians had lived.

These lineages suggest that the Phoenicians contributed their genes to at least six percent of the modern populations of historic Phoenician trading outposts.

"Our findings suggest that the Phoenicians left behind a genetic legacy that persists till modern times," said Chris Tyler-Smith, lead author and associate researcher at National Geographic Society's Genographic Project.

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