Outside Europe, E1b1b is found at high frequencies in Morocco (over 80%), Somalia (80%), Ethiopia (40% to 80%), Tunisia (70%), Algeria (60%), Egypt (40%), Jordan (25%), Palestine (20%), and Lebanon (17.5%). On the European continent it has the highest concentration in Kosovo (over 45%), Albania and Montenegro (both 27%), Bulgaria (23%), Macedonia and Greece (both 21%), Cyprus (20%), Sicily (20%), South Italy (18.5%), Serbia (18%) and Romania (15%).
Haplogroup E1b1b (formerly E3b) represents the last major direct migration from Africa into Europe. It is believed to have first appeared in the Horn of Africa approximately 26,000 years ago and dispersed to North Africa and the Near East during the late Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. E1b1b lineages are closely linked to the diffusion of Afroasiatc languages.
The highest genetic diversity of haplogroup E1b1b is observed in Northeast Africa, especially in Ethiopia and Somalia, which also have the monopoly of older and rarer branches like M281, V6 or V92. Ethiopians and Somalians belong mostly to the V22 and V32 (downstream of V12) subclades, but possess also a minority of M81, M123 and V42 subclades. Among the main subclades of E1b1b only V13 and V65 are absent from the Horn of Africa, and probably originated in northern Africa (V65) or the southern Levant (V13).
It is still unclear when haplogroup E first entered Europe. The earliest known prehistoric sample to date is an E-V13 from Catalonia dating from 5000 BCE. So we know for sure that E1b1b was present in southern Europe at least since the Early Neolithic. Nonetheless, the possibility of other migrations of E1b1b to southern Europe during the Mesolithic or Late Palaeolithic cannot be ruled out.
Haplogroup E1b1b may well have been associated with the earliest development of Neolithic lifestyle and the advent of agriculture, which is so far believed to have arisen in the Fertile Crescent, but could have developed earlier in parts of Northeast Africa now covered by the Sahara desert. Agriculture spread from the Near East to Europe, at first mostly ovicaprid and cattle herders.
E1b1b men (accompanied by G2a, J and T men) appear to have been associated at least with the diffusion of Neolithic painted pottery from the Levant to the Balkans (Thessalian Neolithic), and with the Cardium Pottery culture (5000-1500 BCE) in the Western Mediterranean. The only concrete evidence for this at the moment is the presence of the E-V13 subclade, commonest in the southern Balkans today, at a 7000-year old Neolithic site in north-east Spain, which was tested by Lacan et al (2011). The African origin of some Neolithic cattle was confirmed by Decker et al 2013, who reported that Iberian and Italian cattle possess introgression from African taurine.
Judging from modern frequencies, E1b1b would have been a major Near Eastern haplogroup linked to the propagation of agriculture in Europe. It is the only Near Eastern haplogroup consistently found throughout Europe, even in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Baltic countries, which are conspicuous by the absence of other Neolithic haplogroups like G2a (bar the Indo-European G2a3b1), J1 and T (except in Estonia).
E1b1b lineages would have been part and parcel to virtually all Neolithic and subsequent cultures in Europe, if only as a tiny minority in Scandinavia, Northeast Europe and in the Pontic Steppe.
The ancient Greeks contributed to the diffusion of E1b1b to places such as Cyprus, Sicily, southern Italy, Liguria, Provence, and eastern Spain, while the Phoenicians and Carthaginians brought more E1b1b to Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Ibiza and southern Iberia. Migrations within the Roman Empire probably played a role, although a minor one, in the redistribution of E1b1b in Europe.
Haplogroup J1 is a Middle Eastern haplogroup, which probably originated in eastern Anatolia, near Lake Van in central Kurdistan. Eastern Anatolia being the region where goats, sheep and cattle were first domesticated in the Middle East, haplogroup J1 is almost certainly linked to the expansion of pastoralist lifestyle throughout the Middle East and Europe.
Like haplogroup G, J1 might have been of the principal lineages to bring domesticated animals to Europe. Both G and J1 reach their maximal frequencies in the Caucasus, some ethnic groups being almost exclusively J1 (Kubachis, Kaitaks, Dargins, Avars), while others have extremely high levels of G (Shapsugs, North Ossetians). Most of the ethnic groups in the North Caucasus have between 20 and 40% of each haplogroup, which are by far their two dominant haplogroups.
Frequencies og haplogroup J1 in Europe and West Asia tend to vary considerably from one regional community to the next. The highest local percentages in Europe are found in Greece, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal and hardly ever exceed 5% of the population. However Italy, France and Spain also have areas where J1 appears completely absent. Even in northern Europe, where the nation-wide frequencies are below 0.5%, very localised pockets of J1 have been observed in Scotland, England, Belgium, Germany and Poland. Larger sample sizes are needed to get a clearer picture of the distribution of J1 in Europe.
Surpisingly, even in the Caucasus and in Anatolia, the region where this haplogroup is thought to have originated, there are wide discrepancies between regions. For example, the Kubachi and Dargins from Dagestan in the Northeast Caucasus have over 80% of J1 lineages, while in their Ingush neighbours, 200 km to the north, it barely reaches 3%. East Anatolia around Lake Van sees over 30% of J1, whereas south-west Anatolia has only 2%. Even within Kurdistan frequencies vary greatly. The small sample sizes for each region is surely to blame.
In Arabic countries, J1 climaxes among the Marsh Arabs of South Iraq (81%), the Sudanese Arabs (73%), the Yemeni (72%), the Bedouins (63%), the Qatari (58%), the Saudi (40%), the Omani (38%) and the Palestinian Arabs (38%). High percentages are also observed in the United Arab Emirates (35%), coastal Algeria (35%), Jordan (31%), Syria (30%), Tunisia (30%), Egypt (21%) and Lebanon (20%).
In the South Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan), haplogroup J2 comes into the admixture and is in fact slightly higher than either J1 or G. Most of the Caucasian J1 is at present J1*, meaning that at present no common SNP has been identified that could form a new subclade. Armenia stands out of the lot by having a substantial J1c3d (also called J-P58) minority (at least one third of all J1, i.e. roughly 4% of the population). Most of the Arabic J1 belongs to the J1c3 variety.
J1-P58 (J1b2 on the ISOGG tree, formerly known as J1c3) is by far the most widespread subclade of J1. It is a typically Semitic haplogroup, making up most of the population of the Arabian peninsula, where it accounts for approximately 40% to 75% of male lineages. Most of the J1 in the Caucasus, Anatolia and Europe is of the non-J1-P58 variety.
The dominant lineage in the Arabian peninsula is J1-L147.1. L147.1 is also the Cohen Modal Haplotype. Roughly half of all Cohanim belong to the L147.1 subclade. In the Hebrew Bible the common ancestor of all Cohens is identified as Aaron, the brother of Moses.
Y-chromosomal Aaron is the name given to the hypothesised most recent common ancestor of many of the patrilineal Jewish priestly caste known as Kohanim (singular “Kohen”, “Cohen”, or Kohane). In the Torah, this ancestor is identified as Aaron, the brother of Moses. The hypothetical most recent common ancestor was therefore jocularly dubbed “Y-chromosomal Aaron”, in analogy to Y-chromosomal Adam.
The original scientific research was based on the discovery that a majority of present-day Jewish Kohanim either share, or are only one step removed from, a pattern of values for 6 Y-STR markers, which researchers named the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH). However it subsequently became clear that this six marker pattern was widespread in many communities where men had Y chromosomes which fell into Haplogroup J; the six-marker CMH was not specific just to Cohens, nor even just to Jews.
More recent research, using a larger number of Y-STR markers to gain higher resolution more specific genetic signatures, has indicated that about half of contemporary Jewish Kohanim, who share Y-chromosomal haplogroup J1c3 (also called J-P58), do indeed appear to be very closely related. A further approximately 15% of Kohanim fall into a second distinct group, sharing a different but similarly tightly related ancestry. This second group fall under haplogroup J2a (J-M410). A number of other smaller lineage groups are also observed. Only one of these haplogroups could indicate ancestry from Y-chromosomal Aaron.
The numerous subclades downstream of L858 represent the tremendous expansion of J1 lineages linked to the propagation of Islam and the Arabic language from Saudi Arabia from the 7th century CE.
J1-P58 is thought to have expanded from eastern Anatolia to the Levant, Taurus and Zagros mountains and the Arabian peninsula at the end of the last Ice Age (12,000 years ago) with the seasonal migrations of pastoralists. Arabic speakers recolonised the Arabian peninsula in the Bronze Age from the north-west of the peninsula, close to modern Jordan. The rise of Islam in the 7th century CE played a major part in the re-expansion of J1 from Arabia throughout the Middle East, as well as to North Africa, and to a lower extent to Sicily and southern Spain.
Haplogroup J2 is thought to have appeared somewhere in the Middle East towards the end of the last glaciation, between 15,000 and 22,000 years ago. Its present geographic distribution argue in favour of a Neolithic expansion from the Fertile Crescent.
This expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats (starting c. 8000-9000 BCE) from the Zagros mountains and northern Mesopotamia, rather than with the development of cereal agriculture in the Levant (which appears to be linked rather to haplogroups G2 and E1b1b).
A second expansion of J2 could have occured with the advent of metallurgy, notably copper working (from the Lower Danube valley, central Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia), and the rise of some of the oldest civilisations.
Quite a few ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilisations flourished in territories where J2 lineages were preponderant. This is the case of the Hattians, the Hurrians, the Etruscans, the Minoans, the Greeks, the Phoenicians (and their Carthaginian offshoot), the Israelites, and to a lower extent also the Romans, the Assyrians and the Persians. All the great seafaring civilisations from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age were dominated by J2 men.
There is a distinct association of ancient J2 civilisations with bull worship. The oldest evidence of a cult of the bull can be traced back to Neolithic central Anatolia, notably at the sites of Çatalhöyük and Alaca Höyük.
Bull depictions are omnipresent in Minoan frescos and ceramics in Crete. Bull-masked terracotta figurines and bull-horned stone altars have been found in Cyprus (dating back as far as the Neolithic, the first presumed expansion of J2 from West Asia). The Hattians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaaites, and Carthaginians all had bull deities (in contrast with Indo-European or East Asian religions).
The sacred bull of Hinduism, Nandi, present in all temples dedicated to Shiva or Parvati, does not have an Indo-European origin, but can be traced back to Indus Valley civilisation. Minoan Crete, Hittite Anatolia, the Levant, Bactria and the Indus Valley also shared a tradition of bull leaping, the ritual of dodging the charge of a bull. It survives today in the traditional bullfighting of Andalusia in Spain and Provence in France, two regions with a high percentage of J2 lineages.
Haplogroup G is believed to have originated around the Middle East during the late Paleolithic, possibly as early as 30,000 years ago. At that time humans would all have been hunter-gatherers, and in most cases living in small nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes. Members of this haplogroup appear to have been closely linked to the development of early agriculture in the Levant part of the Fertile Crescent, starting 11,500 years before present.
There has so far been ancient Y-DNA analysis from only four Neolithic cultures (LBK in Germany, Remedello in Italy and Cardium Pottery in south-west France and Spain), and all sites yielded G2a individuals, which is the strongest evidence at present that farming originated with and was disseminated by members of haplogroup G (although probably in collaboration with other haplogroups such as E1b1b, J, R1b and T).
So far, the only G2a people negative for subclades downstream of P15 or L149.1 have all been found in the South Caucasus region. The highest genetic diversity within haplogroup G is found between the Levant and the Caucasus, in the Fertile Crescent, which is another good indicator of its region of origin.
It is thought that early Neolithic farmers expanded from the Levant and Mesopotamia westwards to Anatolia and Europe, eastwards to South Asia, and southwards to the Arabian peninsula and North and East Africa. The domestication of goats and cows first took place in the mountainous region of eastern Anatolia, including the Caucasus and Zagros. This is probably where the roots of haplogroup G2a (and perhaps of all haplogroup G) are to be found.
The Paleolithic origins of R1b are not entirely clear to this day. Some of the oldest forms of R1b are found around the Caucasus, in Iran and in southern Central Asia, a vast region where could have roamed the nomadic R1b hunter-gatherers during the Ice Age. Haplogroup R1* and R2* might have originated in southern Central Asia (between the Caspian depression and the Hindu Kush).
A branch of R1 would have developed into R1b then R1b1 and R1b1a in the northern part of the Middle East around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (circa 20,000 years ago), while R1a migrated north to Siberia. R1b1a presumptively moved to northern Anatolia and across the Caucasus during the Neolithic, where it split into R1b1a1 (M73) and R1b1a2 (M269). The Near Eastern leftovers evolved into R1b1c (V88), now found at low frequencies among the Lebanese, the Druze, and the Jews. The Phoenicians (who came from modern day Lebanon) spread this R1b1c to their colonies, notably Sardinia and the Maghreb.
R1b1a2 (the most common form in Europe) and R1b1a1 is closely associated with the diffusion of Indo-European languages, as attested by its presence in all regions of the world where Indo-European languages were spoken in ancient times, from the Atlantic coast of Europe to the Indian subcontinent, including almost all Europe (except Finland and Bosnia-Herzegovina), Anatolia, Armenia, European Russia, southern Siberia, many pockets around Central Asia (notably Xinjiang, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan), without forgetting Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal. The history of R1b and R1a are intricately connected to each others.
R1b is the most common haplogroup in Western Europe, reaching over 80% of the population in Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, western Wales, the Atlantic fringe of France, the Basque country and Catalonia. It is also common in Anatolia and around the Caucasus, in parts of Russia and in Central and South Asia. Besides the Atlantic and North Sea coast of Europe, hotspots include the Po valley in north-central Italy (over 70%), Armenia (35%), the Bashkirs of the Urals region of Russia (50%), Turkmenistan (over 35%), the Hazara people of Afghanistan (35%), the Uyghurs of North-West China (20%) and the Newars of Nepal (11%). R1b-V88, a subclade specific to sub-Saharan Africa, is found in 60 to 95% of men in northern Cameroon.
Haplogroup T originated at least 30,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest haplogroups found in Eurasia, which may explain its vast dispersal around Africa and South Asia. It also makes its place of origin uncertain. T is descended from haplogroup K, the ancestor of most of the Eurasian haplogroups (L, N, O, P, Q, R and T), and whose origins are thought to lie in the Middle ast or in Central Asia.
Although haplogroup T is more common today in East Africa than anywhere else, it almost certainly spread from the Fertile Crescent with the rise of agriculture. Indeed, the oldest subclades and the greatest diversity of T is found in the Middle East, especially around the Fertile Crescent. The higher frequency of T in East Africa would be due to a founder effect among Neolithic farmers from the Middle East.
The modern distribution T in Europe strongly correlates with a the Neolithic colonisation of Mediterranean Europe by Near-Eastern farmers, notably the Cardium Pottery culture (5000-1500 BCE).
During the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age haplogroup T would have been an important (though probably not dominant) lineage among ancient peoples such as Sumerians and the Elamites.
The higher than average frequencies of haplogroup T in places like Cyprus, Sicily, Tunisia, Ibiza, Andalusia and the northern tip of Morocco suggest that haplogroup T could have been dispersed around the Mediterranean by the Phoenicians (1200-800 BCE), and that ancient Phoenicia seemingly had a higher incidence of T than Lebanon does today (5%).
While almost all subclades of T are found in the Middle East, most Europeans outside the Mediterranean belong to the subclades T1a2 (L131) and T1a1a1a (P77), who are also found in Anatolia. These subclades probably represent one of the Neolithic migration from the Fertile Crescent to Southeast Europe. They would then have spread around central and Eastern Europe, as far north as the eastern Baltic.
T1a2 has been found as far east as the Volga-Ural region of Russia and Xinjiang in north-west China. This branch probably penetrated into the Pontic-Caspian Steppe during the Neolithic (perhaps alongside G2a3b1 and J2b2) and became integrated to the indigenous R1a peoples before their expansion to Central Asia during the Bronze Age (=> see R1a-Z93).
Haplogroup T has been found at a relatively high frequency among the Tatars (5%) and Maris (2%) of the Volga-Ural region as well as in north-west Russia (3%) and Estonia (3.5%) suggesting that it may have been one of the principal lineages bringing the Neolithic to Uralic-speaking population.
Autosomal DNA tests have also identified unusually high percentages of Southwest Asian admixtures among the Finns (1 to 2.5%) and Lithuanians (1.5%), who otherwise lack West Asian or Caucasian admixture and possess hardly any Middle Eastern Y-DNA. This Southwest Asian admixture could be the trace of T lineages absorbed during the Neolithic.
The word “Semitic” (from the Biblical “Shem”) is an adjective derived from Shem, one of the three sons of Noah in the Bible (Genesis 5.32, 6.10, 10.21). In Genesis 10:21–31, Shem is described as the father of Aram, Ashur, and Arpachshad: the Biblical ancestors of the Semites, of whom the languages are closely related; the language family containing them was therefore named “Semitic” by linguists.
The concept of “Semitic” peoples is derived from Biblical accounts of the origins of the cultures known to the ancient Hebrews. Those closest to them in culture and language were generally deemed to be descended from their forefather Shem. Enemies were often said to be descendants of his cursed nephew, Canaan (even though Hebrew in reality, is itself a Canaanite language).
As language studies are interwoven with cultural studies, the term also came to describe the extended cultures and ethnicities, as well as the history of these varied peoples as associated by close geographic and linguistic distribution.
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of West Asian origin, now called the Semitic languages. The term Semite means a member of any of various ancient and modern Semitic-speaking peoples originating in the Near East, including;
Akkadians (Assyrians and Babylonians), Eblaites, Ugarites, Canaanites, Phoenicians (including Carthaginians), Hebrews (Israelites, Judeans and Samaritans), Ahlamu, Amalekites, Amhari, Amorites, Arabs, Arameans, Bahranis, Canaanites, Chaldeans, Dilmunites, Eblaites, Edomites, Ethiopian Semites, Ge’ez, Hebrews, Hyksos, Nabateans, Maganites, Malteses, Mandeans, Moabites, Phoenicians, Shebans, Sutu, Maltese, Mandaeans, Mhallami, Palmyrans Sabians, Syriacs, Tigres, Tigrinyans, Ugarits, and Ubarites.
The Canaanites and Amorites also spoke languages very closely related to Hebrew and attested in writing earlier, and are therefore termed Semitic in linguistics, despite being described in Genesis as sons of Ham. Shem is also described in Genesis as the father of Elam and Lud, however the Elamites were not Semitic, they spoke a language isolate, and the equally non Semitic Lydians spoke an Indo-European language. Equally, the Hittites are described as sons of Ham, but in actuality they spoke an Indo-European language.
The reconstructed Proto-Semitic language, ancestral to historical Semitic languages in the Middle East, is thought to have been originally from either the Arabian Peninsula (particularly around Yemen), the Levant, Mesopotamia or even the Ethiopian Highlands. However, its region of origin is still uncertain and much debated, with, for example, a recent Bayesian analysis identifying an origin for Semitic languages in the Levant around 3,750 BC. with a later single introduction from what is now southern Arabia into north Africa around 800 BC.
The Semitic language family is also considered a component of the larger Afroasiatic macro-family of languages. Identification of the hypothetical proto-Semitic region of origin is therefore dependent on the larger geographic distributions of the other language families within Afroasiatic.
The earliest historical attestation of any Semitic people comes from Mesopotamia, with the East Semitic Akkadian-speaking peoples entering the region dominated by the non-Semitic Sumerians, whom Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer asserts “No people has contributed more to the culture of mankind than the Sumerians” and yet it is only comparatively recently that we have built up a knowledge of the existence of this ancient culture.
The Sumerian city of Eridu, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, was the world’s first city, where three separate cultures fused – that of peasant Ubaidian farmers, living in mud-brick huts and practicing irrigation; that of mobile nomadic Semitic pastoralists living in black tents and following herds of sheep and goats; and that of fisher folk, living in reed huts in the marshlands, who may have been the ancestors of the Sumerians.
The earliest known Akkadian inscription was found on a bowl at Ur, addressed to the very early pre-Sargonic king Meskiang-nuna of Ur by his queen Gan-saman, who is thought to have been from Akkad. However, some of the names appearing on the Sumerian king list as prehistoric rulers of Kish have been held to indicate a Semitic presence even before this, as early as the 30th or 29th century BC.
Sumerian civilization took form in the Uruk period (4th millennium BC), continuing into the Jemdat Nasr and Early Dynastic periods. During the 3rd millennium BC, a close cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians (who spoke a Language Isolate) and the Semitic Akkadian speakers, which included widespread bilingualism.
The influence of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the 3rd millennium BC as a sprachbund.
The surplus of storable food created by this economy allowed the population of this region to settle in one place, instead of migrating as hunter gatherers. It also allowed for a much greater population density, and in turn required an extensive labour force and division of labour with many specialised arts and crafts.
At the same time, over use of the irrigated soils led to progressive salinisation, and a Malthusian crisis which led to depopulation of the Sumerian region over time, leading to its progressive eclipse by the Akkadians of middle Mesopotamia.
Sumer was conquered by the Semitic-speaking kings of the Akkadian Empire around 2270 BC (short chronology), but Sumerian continued as a sacred language. By the mid 3rd millennium BC, many states and cities in Mesopotamia had come to be ruled or dominated by Akkadian speaking Semites, including Assyria, Eshnunna, Akkad, Kish, Isin, Ur, Uruk, Adab, Nippur, Ekallatum, Nuzi, Akshak, Eridu and Larsa.
The Akkadian Empire (2335 BC – 2193 BC) enabled the Mesopotamian Semites to unite all of Mesopotamia under one rule, and further spread their dominance and cultural and technological influence over much of the Near East, Asia Minor (Anatolia) and Ancient Iran.
The East Semitic Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia proved to be not only the oldest, but the most advanced in the Near East and its surrounds, between the mid 24th and late 6th centuries BC, often asserting dominance over the West, Northwest and South Semitic speaking peoples, as well as the Non-Semitic peoples of the region.
A number of non-Semitic peoples were eventually absorbed by Semites; The Sumerians were absorbed into the Akkadian speaking Assyro-Babylonian population of Mesopotamia by around 2000 BC, and the Kassites who ruled Babylonia for almost five centuries from the early 16th century BC, eventually blended into the native population.
Similarly, the Philistines eventually disappeared into the native Israelite-Canaanite population, and in northern Aram (Syria) and south central Asia Minor, there was a synthesis between the Semitic Arameans and Indo-European Neo-Hittites, with the founding of a number of small Syro-Hittite states fro the 12th century BC until their destruction by Assyria in the 8th and 7th centuries BC.
During the Middle Assyrian Empire (1366-1050 BC) and in particular the Neo Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC) much of the Near East, Asia Minor, Caucasus, Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt, Ancient Iran and North Africa fell under Assyrian domination. During the 8th century BC the Assyrians introduced Aramaic as the lingua franca of their empire, and this language was to remain dominant among Near Eastern Semites until the early Medieval Period.
The Assyrian Empire collapsed by 605 BC after decades of internal civil war followed by a combined attack on the weakened sate by an alliance of its former subject peoples (their own Babylonian relations, together with the Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians), and after the collapse of the succeeding Neo Babylonian Empire in 539 BC, the Semitic peoples found themselves largely under the domination of various Indo-European speaking empires for over twelve centuries; the Achaemenid Empire, Seleucid Empire, Parthian Empire, Roman Empire, Sassanid Empire and Byzantine Empire.
Babylon became the centre of a short lived but influential Babylonian Empire in the 18th century BC, and subsequent to this southern Mesopotamia came to be known as Babylonia, with Babylon superseding Nippur as the primary religious center of southern Mesopotamia. Northern Mesopotamia had long before already coalesced into Assyria. After the fall of the first Babylonian Empire, the far south of Mesopotamia broke away for circa 300 years, becoming the independent Sealand Dynasty.
Babylonia was often erroneously referred to as Chaldea from the period of the Neo Babylonian Empire onwards, although only the first three or four rulers of the empire were certainly Chaldeans, and the last ruler was Assyrian. The Chaldeans, like the Amorites and Kassites of southern Mesopotamia before them, eventually blended into the indigenous population, and disappeared as a distinct people, and Babylonia itself was subsumed into the Assyrian province during the Parthian Empire.
There were a number of Non-Semitic groups living in the same regions, and whose histories are interwoven with the Semites at various times; these included peoples who spoke Language Isolates, stand alone languages unrelated to any other recorded language, living or dead.
Language isolate speakers included; Sumerians in Mesopotamia, Elamites in south western Ancient Iran, Lullubi, Kassites, Gutians and Manneans in north western Ancient Iran, as well as Hattians, Hurrians and Urartians in Asia Minor.
A number of Indo-European speaking peoples also appeared; In Asia Minor, the Kaskians, Luwians, Ancient Greeks and Hittites emerged between the 23rd and 19th centuries BC, and the Mitanni in the 17th century BC, the Phrygians and Dorian Greeks arrived in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) during the 13th century BC, followed by Cappadocians, Lydians, Carians, Cilicians, Lycians, Cimmerians, Scythians, Armenians and Corduene (Kurds) during the late Iron Age and early Classical Period.
The non-Semitic Philistines, one of the Sea Peoples, and not to be confused with modern Palestinian Arabs, are conjectured to have arrived in southern Canaan sometime in the 12th century.
They are conjectured to have spoken an Indo-European language, as there are possibly Greek and Luwian traces in the limited information available about their tongue, although this is not certain.
At approximately the same time or shortly before the Iranic Indo-Europeans, the Medes, Persians, Parthians, Sogdians and Bactrians entered Ancient Iran Circa 1000 BC, nations speaking Kartvelian (Georgian) languages arose, Colchia and Tabal in Asia Minor.
In Egypt, the people were speakers of a stand alone Afroasiatic tongue, a language loosely related to but distinct from those of the Semitic peoples, as were the Berbers of the Sahara and the coasts of North Africa, Semitic Carthage aside. Nilotic peoples such as the Nubians and Kushites dwelt to the south of the Egyptians, and Puntites to the south east of Ethiopia.
Sumerian texts repeatedly refer to three important centers with which they traded: Magan, Dilmun, and Meluhha. Magan is usually identified with Oman. This identification, however, is Assyrian; the Sumerian localization of Magan was probably Oman. Dilmun was a Persian Gulf civilization which traded with Mesopotamian civilizations, the current scholarly consensus is that Dilmun encompassed Bahrain, Failaka, Kuwait and the adjacent eastern Arabia coast in the Persian Gulf.
The location of Meluhha, however, is hotly debated. There are scholars today who confidently identify Meluhha with the Harappan Civilization on the basis of the extensive evidence of trading contacts between Sumer and this region. Sesame oil was probably imported from the Indus valley into Sumer: the Sumerian word for this oil is illu (Akkadian: ellu). In Dravidian languages of South India el or ellu stands for sesame.
There is extensive presence of Harappan seals and cubical weight measures in Mesopotamian urban sites. Specific items of high volume trade are timber and specialty wood such as ebony, for which large ships were used. Luxury items also appear, such as lapis lazuli mined at a Harappan colony at Shortugai (Badakshan in northern Afghanistan), which was transported to Lothal, a port city in Gujarat in western India, and shipped from there to Oman, Bahrain, and Sumer.
A number of other non-Arab South Semitic states existed in the far south of what was much later to become known as the Arabian Peninsula, such as Sheba (in modern Yemen), Magan and Ubar (both in modern Oman), although the histories of these states is sketchy (mainly coming from Mesopotamian and Egyptian records), as there was no written script in the region at this time.
During these periods there were spells of varying degrees of independence in Israel, and among the Assyrians (with the Neo-Assyrian states of Adiabene, Osrhoene and Hatra, as well as for a time the old Assyrian capital of Ashur itself), in the Aramean state of Palmyra, the Syriac speaking Nabatean state, with its capital of Petra, and most notably the powerful Phoenician state of Carthage which rivaled Rome.
During this period (circa 27th to 26th century BC), another East Semitic speaking people, the Eblaites, appear in historical record north eastern Syria, founding the state of Ebla, whose language was closely related to Akkadian.
Aleppo, who in historical records appears as an important city much earlier than Damascus, has scarcely been touched by archaeologists, since the modern city occupies its ancient site. The site has been occupied from around 5000 BC, as excavations in Tallet Alsauda show.
The first record of Aleppo comes from the third millennium BC, when Aleppo was the capital of an independent kingdom closely related to Ebla, known as Armi to Ebla and Armani to the Akkadians. Giovanni Pettinato describes Armi as Ebla’s alter ego. Naram-Sin of Akkad destroyed both Ebla and Armani in the 23rd century BC.
All early Semites across the entire Near East appear to have originally been Polytheist. Mesopotamian religion is the earliest recorded and for millenia the most influential, exerting strong influence on the later recorded Canaanite religions then practiced in what is today Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories and the Sinai, and also those of the Arameans, Chaldeans, Phoenicians/Carthaginians and Arabs.
The influence of Mesopotamian religion can also be found in Armenian and Graeco-Roman religion and to some degree upon the later Semitic Monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, Mandeanism, Gnosticism and Islam.
Of the West Semitic speaking peoples who occupied what is today Syria (excluding the East Semitic north east), Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and the Sinai peninsula, the earliest references concern the Canaanite speaking Amorites (known as “Martu” or “Amurru” by the Mesopotamians) of northern and eastern Syria, and date from the 24th century BC in Mesopotamian annals.
The technologically advanced Sumerians, Akkadians and Assyrians of Mesopotamia mention the West Semitic peoples in disparaging terms;- The MAR.TU who know no grain… The MAR.TU who know no house nor town, the boors of the mountains… The MAR.TU who digs up truffles… who does not bend his knees (to cultivate the land), who eats raw meat, who has no house during his lifetime, who is not buried after death.
However, after initially being prevented from doing so by powerful Assyrian kings of the Old Assyrian Empire intervening from northern Mesopotamia, these Amorites would eventually overrun southern Mesopotamia, and found the state of Babylon in 1894 BC, where they became Akkadianized, adopted Mesopotamian culture and language, and blended into the indigenous population.
In the 19th century BC a similar wave of Canaanite speaking Semites entered Egypt and by the early 17th century BC these Canaanites (known as Hyksos by the Egyptians) had conquered the country, forming the Fifteenth Dynasty, introducing military technology new to Egypt, such as the war Chariot.
Proto-Canaanite texts from northern Canaan and the Levant (modern Lebanon and Syria) around 1500 BC yield the first undisputed attestations of a written West Semitic language (although earlier testimonies are possibly preserved in Middle Bronze Age alphabets, such as the Proto-Sinaitic script from the late 19th century BC), followed by the much more extensive Ugaritic tablets of northern Syria from the late 14th century BC in the city-state of Ugarit in north west Syria. Ugaritic was a West Semitic language, the same language family as the Amorites, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Moabites, Edomites and Israelites.
The Shasu appear in Egyptian records circa 14th century BC, as a semi-nomadic Canaanite speaking people inhabiting Moab and northern Edom (a region stretching from the Jezreel Valley to Ashkelon and the Sinai), and a number of scholars believe the Shasu were synonymous with the Hebrews, who went on to eventually found Israel.
The appearance of nomadic Semitic Aramaeans and Suteans in historical record also dates from the late 14th century BC, the Arameans coming to dominate an area roughly corresponding with modern Syria (which became known as Aram or Aramea), subsuming the earlier Amorites, and founding states such as Aram-Damascus, Idlib (Aleppo), Hamath Aram-Naharaim, Paddan-Aram, Aram-Rehob, and Zobah, while the Suteans occupied the deserts of south eastern Syria and north eastern Jordan.
The Chaldeans, closely related to but distinct from the Arameans, appeared in south east Mesopotamia (Babylonia) circa the 12th century BC, where they settled and became Akkadianised.
A Canaanite group known as the Phoenicians came to dominate the coasts of Syria, Lebanon and south west Turkey from the 13th century BC, founding city states such as Tyre, Sidon, Byblos Simyra, Arwad, Berytus (Beirut) and Aradus, eventually spreading their influence throughout the Mediterranean, including building colonies in Malta, Sicily, the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain), the coasts of North Africa, founding the major city state of Carthage (in modern Tunisia) in the 9th century BC.
The Phoenicians created the Phoenician alphabet in the 12th century BC, which would eventually supersede Cuneiform. Phoenician became one of the most widely used writing systems, spread by Phoenician merchants across the Mediterranean world and beyond, where it evolved and was assimilated by many other cultures.
The still extant Aramaic alphabet, a modified form of Phoenician script, was the ancestor of modern Hebrew, Syriac/Assyrian and Arab scripts, stylistic variants and descendants of the Aramaic script.
The Greek alphabet (and by extension its descendants such as the Latin, the Cyrillic and the Egyptian Coptic scripts), was a direct successor of Phoenician, though certain letter values were changed to represent vowels. Old Italic, Anatolian, Armenian, Georgian and Paleohispanic scripts are also descendant of Phoenician script.
Between the 13th and 11th centuries BC, a number of small Canaanite speaking states arose in Southern Canaan, an area approximately corresponding to modern Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Sinai peninsula, these were the lands of the Edomites, Moabites, Hebrews/Israelites, Ammonites and Amalekites, all of whom spoke closely related west Semitic Canaanite languages.
Edom and Moab were first to appear in historical record during the mid to late 13th century BC, both coming into conflict with Egypt. The Hebrews (who spoke a Canaanite dialect) make an appearance in historical record, with the founding of the state of Israel in the late 11th century BC in southern Canaan. Later, a part of Israel broke away, becoming Judah, with a further Jewish kingdom Samarra (the land of the Samaritans) also founded as a puppet kingdom by the Assyrians.
In Israel the very first example of Monotheism arose, with the founding of Judaism, and the belief in one single god, Yaweh. The Hebrew language, closely related to the earlier attested Canaanite language of the Phoenicians, would become the vehicle of the religious literature of the Tanakh and Torah, and thus eventually have global ramifications.
Alongside and at the same time as the Hebrews/Israelites, another closely related West Semitic/Canaanite nation of Ammon also appeared, often involved in local rivalries with Israel, as did the stateless Amalekites.
The Arabs first appear in record in Assyrian Annals from the mid 9th century BC as desert dwelling nomadic inhabitants of what is today Saudi Arabia. They were regarded as conquered vassals of the Assyrians.
Later still, written evidence of Old South Arabian and Ge’ez (both related to but in reality separate languages to the Arabic language) offer the first written attestations of South Semitic languages in the 8th century BC in what is now modern Oman and Yemen. These, along with writing in the form of the Ge’ez script, were later imported to Ethiopia and Eritrea by migrating South Semites from part of Southern Arabia (modern west Yemen) during the 8th and 7th centuries BC, who intermingling with the native non-Semitic African peoples, gave rise to Ethiopian Semitic speaking peoples whose languages survive to this day.
The Nabateans, an Aramaic speaking people of mixed Canaanite, Aramean and Arab origins appear in the 4th century BC around the Negev, Sinai Peninsula and northern Arabia, forming an independent Nabatea between the 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD, with its capital at Petra.
The Mandeans, a Gnostic Ethno-Religious sect venerating John the Baptist as the true Messiah, appear in the 1st century AD first in Assyria, and then Southern Mesopotamia. Their origins are unclear, but most scholars believe that they are originally a Canaanite or Aramean people originating from around the River Jordan, while others believe them to be native Mesopotamians.
During the Seleucid period, the Greek rulers of both Mesopotamia and Aram (modern Syria) applied the terms Syria and Syrian, the Indo-European name for Assyria and Assyrians, not only to Assyria itself, but also to Aram to the west. From this point (and particularly from the early Christian period) onward, both the Arameans of the Levant and the Assyrians of Mesopotamia, although distinct and separate peoples to this day, were often collectively referred to as Syriacs or Syrians in Greco-Roman culture and later also by western Europeans.
By the 1st century AD various Aramaic dialects had come to dominate an area stretching from eastern Asia Minor in the north to the northern Arabian Peninsula in the south, and from Assyria, Mesopotamia and north western Persia in the east, to the Eastern coasts of the Mediterranean in the west.
Particularly Semitic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Mandaeism, Sabianism, Manicheanism and Gnosticism took root among the Semites, with Judaism long centered in Judaea (Israel) and Mesopotamia, and Christianity first spread initially among the largely Aramaic speaking Semitic races of Judaea, Syria, Assyria, Babylonia, Nabatea and Phoenicia during the 1st century AD, an area encompassing the modern states of Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, south eastern Turkey and the Palestinian Territories. Syriac Christianity was largely centered in areas outside of Roman control, such as in Persian-occupied Assyria (Athura/Assuristan) from whence it spread to Central Asia, India and China, and Coptic Christianity spread from Egypt to the Ethiopian Semites by the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Mandeanism was centered in Assyria and Mesopotamia, and Gnostic sects were to be found all over the Semitic world.
With the advent of the Arab Islamic conquest of the 7th and 8th centuries AD, the hitherto largely uninfluential Arabic language (and Islamic culture) gradually replaced many (but not all) of the indigenous Semitic languages and cultures of the Near East. Both the Near East and North Africa saw an influx of Muslim Arabic people from the Arabian Peninsula.
The previously dominant Aramaic dialects gradually began to be sidelined, however descendant dialects of Aramaic, including Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, survive to this day among the Assyrians (and Mandeans) of Iraq, Northwestern Iran Northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey, with the dialects of the Assyrian Christians still containing hundreds of Akkadian loan words and an Akkadian grammatical structure.
Long extant geopolitical regions such as Judaea, Assyria, Phoenicia and Syria were dissolved by the Arabs. Indigenous Semitic peoples became citizens in a greater Arab Islamic state, and those who resisted conversion to Islam had certain restrictions imposed upon them. They were excluded from specific duties assigned to Muslims, did not enjoy certain political rights reserved to Muslims, their word was not equal to that of a Muslim in legal matters, they were subject to payment of a special tax (jizyah), they were banned from spreading their religions further in Muslim ruled lands, but were otherwise equal under the laws of property, contract and obligation.
The Arabs spread their South Semitic language to North Africa where it gradually replaced Coptic and Berber (although Berber is still largely extant), and for a time to the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal).
The Druze religion, a hybrid of Islam and Christianity, was founded in the 12th century AD in Lebanon and Syria, with its followers eventually becoming a distinct people in their own right.
A number of South Arabian languages distinct from Arabic still survive, such as Soqotri, Mehri and Shehri which are mainly spoken in Socotra, Yemen and Oman, and are likely descendants of the languages spoken in the ancient kingdoms of Sheba, Magan, Ubar and Dilmun.
By the 21st century AD, people identifying as Arabs now make up the largest population of Semites in the Near East, followed by large numbers of non-Semitic Berbers in North Africa and Ethiopian Semites in the Horn of Africa. Isreal and Malta are currently the only non-Arab ruled Semitic nations.
However a significant number of the once dominant indigenous, ancient Pre-Arab, Non-Arab and Pre-Islamic Semitic peoples of the Middle East maintain their identities to this day, despite being often persecuted ethnic (and often also religious) minorities.
In Israel, the majority population are Hebrew speaking ethnic Jews, with a tiny minority of Samaritans still extant.
In Iraq and the areas of northeast Syria, northwest Iran and southeast Turkey bordering Northern Iraq, the indigenous Assyrian people (also known as Chaldo-Assyrians) still maintain their Akkadian-influenced dialects of Eastern Aramaic as spoken and written tongues, together with their ancient forms of Eastern Rite Christianity. In these same areas the Mandeans retain their distinct pre-Arab Mandean language and Gnostic religion.
Among the Syrian Christians and Mhallami of modern Syria, the advocacy of a pre-Arab Aramean or Syriac-Aramean identity is still strong, although only tiny minorities now speak their native Western Aramaic tongue.
In Lebanon and some coastal regions of Syria the concept of Phoenicianism is endorsed, particularly by Maronite Christians who reject Arab identity and instead assert their ethnic roots lie with the pre-Arab and pre-Islamic Canaanites and Phoenicians.
Malta is the only Semitic nation in Europe, with Maltese being a member of the Semitic language group.