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DNA provides evidence of integration, mobility in Phoenician societies

Important new clues about population mobility in the Mediterranean between the 5th and 3rd centuries BCE have been uncovered by an international team of researchers, co-led by a University of Otago academic.

Professors Lisa Matisoo-Smith, of the University’s Department of Anatomy, and Pierre Zalloua of the Lebanese American University, led a team studying DNA from four ancient Phoenician and Punic burial sites in Lebanon and Sardinia.

They looked at mitochondrial genomes, which are maternally inherited, in a search for markers of Phoenician ancestry.

Their results, just published in the journal PLoS ONE, indicate that Phoenician trade networks and settlement strategies included both assimilation of indigenous women in Phoenician sites as well as the introduction of foreign women, not only from other Phoenician settlements but possibly from further afar.

Continuity of population ancestry between Phoenician and pre-Phoenician people in Sardinia is consistent with archaeological evidence of integration between the cultures.

“We also found mitochondrial DNA that was likely from North Africa or the Near East and even a lineage that is from Northwestern Europe, which today is found at high frequency in southern Ireland – a location linked to Phoenician traders in search of tin,” says Professor Matisoo-Smith.

One individual buried in a Phoenician tomb in Beirut was even found to have Western European mtDNA lineage.

Professor Zalloua points out that “this DNA evidence reflects the inclusive and multicultural nature of Phoenician society.”

“They were never conquerors, they were explorers and traders,’’ he says.

Professor Matisoo-Smith believes the research reveals a lot about Phoenician societies across the Mediterranean.

“They were inclusive and integrative of the indigenous peoples and there was much mobility, often over great distances, around the Phoenician networks. It is also likely that mobility included women as well as men, despite the fact that Phoenician trade was male-dominated.

“It also shows us that identity is a cultural phenomenon; most of the samples that we have are culturally Phoenician (they were buried as Phoenicians), but genetically, they are diverse.’’

One of the great ancient civilizations, Phoenician culture emerged from the coastal city states in what is now Lebanon and Southern Syria around 1800 BCE. By the 9th century BCE Phoenicians had spread across the Mediterranean, establishing settlements on the islands and coasts of North Africa, Spain, Italy (e.g. Sardinia and Sicily), Malta and Cyprus.

From the middle of the 8th century BCE, pressured to provide silver and other metals to the Assyrian Empire, the Phoenicians looked to the west and dominated trade on the Mediterranean Sea for centuries.

The following was a press release provided by the university.

American authorities return stolen Phoenician statues to Lebanon

Three ancient statues stolen during Lebanon’s civil war have returned to Beirut Friday after New York authorities discovered the treasures and contacted Lebanese officials.

The ancient Phoenician treasures include a bull’s head, calf bearer and torso – all made from marble. Officials believe they were stolen, sold to an antiquities dealer and shipped to New York.

Angel Melendez, special agent-in-charge of Homeland Security in New York, said the artifacts were seized and later forfeited by the private owners.

The trafficking of cultural property and art is a lucrative criminal enterprise that transnational criminal organizations seek to partake of to make a profit,” Melendez said. “The cultural significance and worth of these returned treasures is beyond any monetary value.”

According to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, the antiquities are valued at millions of dollars:

Torso E1912

ancient artifact 1

Authorities recovered the marble torso in November from a private owner, and discovered it was excavated in the 1970s from the Temple of Eshmun, an ancient place of worship near Sidon in southwestern Lebanon.

The torso dates back to the 4th century B.C.E.

Calf Bearer

ancient artifact 3

The calf bearer was discovered and recovered in October from a private owner. Authorities also believe it came from the Temple of Eshmun.

It is believed to date back to 6th century B.C.E., and is valued at about $4.5 million.

Bull’s Head

ancient artifact 2

A curator discovered the ancient bull’s head in July at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and notified authorities.

The artifact was on loan for display by a private collector at the museum – the largest art museum in the United States.

It is believed to be worth about $1.2 million, and dates back to 360 B.C.E. Authorities said it was excavated from the Temple of Eshmun in the 1960s, transferred to the Byblos Citadel in Jubayl and stolen during the civil war.

“When you put a price tag on these artifacts, it is all too easy to forget that these are not just valuable collector’s items,” said U.S. District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. “These are rare, celebrated remnants of entire civilizations’ culture and history.”

Vance announced his office would create a Antiquities Trafficking Unit to stop the trade of stolen antiquities from sites around the world. He thanked Lebanese officials for their cooperation in the investigation and return of the artifacts.

“I sincerely appreciate the efforts of the district attorney and his office for their efforts to enforce the rule of law,” said Majdi Ramadan, Consul General of Lebanon in New York.

Many antiquities were stolen from Lebanon during its 15-year civil war.

The National Museum in Beirut will display the artifacts starting in February.

American University of Beirut bans smoking on campus

The American University of Beirut officially banned smoking on all campus grounds, effective Jan. 1, after several months of experimentation with a tobacco-free policy.

AUB President Fadlo Khuri announced a task force in March 2017 to explore the possibility of instituting a campus-wide ban. The campus first launched designated smoking areas before slowly creating a full ban.

Khuri said he met with officials from the World Health Organization and set an ambitious goal to transition the university into a smoke-free campus in a short time.

“I undertook to make AUB completely tobacco-free within 24 months,” Khuri said in 2017. “With a packed agenda of programs in the meantime, we have kept this tight timeline in view and last month I sent out instructions to form a Taskforce for a Tobacco-Free Campus.”

The first phase designated smoking areas and banned tobacco in certain buildings and locations on campus, Khuri said.

The second phase designated smoking in peripheral designated areas, and the third phase banned smoking on all AUB properties.

According to the university, students, staff and faculty caught using tobacco on AUB property will receive smoking cessation resources. However, a persistent breach of the policy would result in disciplinary action in accordance with the university code of conduct.

The work of the taskforce is to bring an end to this accommodating approach to tobacco use, to expand it to all forms of tobacco, smokeless and the water pipe included,” Khuri said. “(It is also) to transform the university space into one that supports the choice of not smoking.”

aub plan

Lebanese-American congressman Darrell Issa will not seek re-election

Lebanese-American Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will not run for re-election, his office announced Wednesday morning, setting up a likely-competitive 2018 campaign in one of California’s most important districts.

Issa, who served in Congress since 2001, is the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. His district covers areas of San Diego and Orange counties.

“Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve,” Issa said in a statement. “Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District.”

A Lebanese-American, Issa served as director of the American Task Force for Lebanon, a nonprofit organization that works to advance Lebanon and its ties with the U.S.

MORE: U.S. congressional leaders invite colleagues to join Lebanon caucus

MORE: Lebanese-American congressman pledges support for Lebanese Army

His paternal grandparents both immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon.

Issa, 64, was also the richest member of Congress. He holds wealth estimated to be in the $460 million range, which he made in part from his time as CEO of auto parts company Directed Electronics.

His retirement from Congress makes him the 31st House Republican not running for re-election.

FULL STATEMENT: Rep. Darrell Issa not seeking re-election:

Two decades ago, when I stepped away from the business I’d built to enter public service, I never could have imagined that a long-shot bid for U.S. Senate would lead to 18 years in the House of Representatives and endless opportunities to make a meaningful impact.

From the first successful recall of a sitting Governor in California history, to establishing new and stronger standards for government accountability, to protecting the Internet from harmful regulation, and enacting the nation’s first open data standards, we attempted and achieved much in the service of our nation.

Together, we put an end to abusive Congressional earmarks, strengthened the Violence Against Women Act, empowered better oversight of the executive branch, and cleared the course for better intellectual property protections to stop the piracy of American ingenuity.

Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve. Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District.

I am forever grateful to the people of San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties for their support and affording me the honor of serving them all these years. Most humbling for me — and for anyone who represents this area — has been the special privilege of representing the Marines and Sailors of Camp Pendleton and their families. On countless occasions, and in every corner of the world I met them, I was inspired by their bravery and humbled by their sacrifice to keep us all safe from harm.

Representing you has been the privilege of a lifetime.

While my service to California’s 49th District will be coming to an end, I will continue advocating on behalf of the causes that are most important to me, advancing public policy where I believe I can make a true and lasting difference, and continuing the fight to make our incredible nation an even better place to call home.

5 Lebanese vegan recipes perfect for Veganuary!

Sure, Lebanese foods include an abundance of meat, chicken and seafood, but there are also recipes perfect for vegans!

Lebanese cuisine is rich with whole grains, vegetables and beans that can you help you plan for meals this Veganuary.

Veganuary is a campaign launched in 2014 as a way to encourage people to try vegan for the month of January.

If you are participating this month, or are planning to try vegan in the future, consider these recipes:

Foul Moudamas

vegan lebanese foul


  • 2 15 ounce cans cooked small fava beans
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 punch parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Pour the cooked fava beans with the liquid into heavy saucepan.
  2. Add the mashed garlic, the cumin, the salt and the pepper. Bring to a boil.
  3. Using potato mashed, mash the fava beans partially and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the lemon juice, the olive oil and half of the chopped vegetables. Stir, adjust the seasoning and remove from the heat.
  5. Spoon the foul moudamas into shallow serving dish and top with the rest of the chopped vegetables.

Recipe courtesy of Sanaa Cooks

Salatet Fassoulia

vegan lebanese white bean salad


  • 2 cups dried cannellini or Great Northern beans, soaked overnight
  • 12 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 14 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 14 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced into a paste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Bring beans and 6 cups water to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until beans are tender, about 50 minutes. Drain beans and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, parsley, cumin, and garlic in a small bowl.
  3. Drizzle garlic mixture over beans, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Serve bean salad cold or at room temperature.

Recipe courtesy of Saveur.


vegan lebanese mujadara vegan rice and lentil


  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 1 3/4 cups lentils rinsed and sorted
  • 1 cup rice white par-boiled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper


  1. Heat oil in a deep sauce pot over medium heat and sauté onions until translucent and caramelized, 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In the same pan, add lentils and increase heat to medium-high. Toast lentils for 60 seconds then add 6 cups water. Bring pot to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are halfway cooked, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add rice, salt and pepper to the pot and bring mixture to a boil. Stir once, cover with lid, then reduce heat to low. Cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  4. Fluff lentils and rice with a fork before serving with caramelized onions.

Recipe courtesy of The Lemon Bowl.


vegan lebanese falafel


  • 1 kg green dried fava beans, peeled
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh coriander, chopped (cilantro)
  • 3 heads garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground red chili pepper
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour or 2 tablespoons gluten-free flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground dried coriander
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder


  1. Soak beans in water for 24 hours, then drain well. Peel the fava beans.
  2. Mix together the peeled fava beans, chopped parsley, coriander/cilantro, crushed garlic and chopped onions.
  3. Grind in a food processor.
  4. Add all remaining falafel ingredients and process again.
  5. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Knead the falafel mix.
  7. Form spoonfuls of the falafel mixture into balls and flatten slightly.
  8. Heat oil in deep pan over high heat, then fry till browned.
  9. Note: Cooking time does not include 24 hours soaking time for the beans.

Recipe courtesy of Genius Kitchen.

Batata Harra

vegan lebanese batata harra spicy potatoes


  • 1 kg desiree potatoes, cut into 2.5 cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup finely chopped coriander
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the olive oil and salt. Divide potatoes among 2 baking paper-lined oven trays. Transfer the trays to the oven and roast for 40 minutes, turning once, until golden.
  3. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and coriander and cook for 1–2 minutes until the garlic starts to change color.
  4. Add the lemon juice and the hot potatoes to the pan and toss lightly to coat. Season to taste and sprinkle with the cayenne pepper.

Recipe courtesy of SBS Food.

Lebanese clown group tours refugee camps to entertain children

A Lebanese clown group aims to entertain and inspire disadvantaged children through interactive workshops and performances at refugee camps.

Performers from Clown Me In, a Beirut-based organization, travel to refugee camps in a caravan and put on humorous showings that promote human rights and social justice issues.

The group launched a new effort called “Van 12,” which showcases principles from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to education, health care and safety.

Sabine Choucair, co-founder of Clown Me In, said the mission is to spread laughter and provide relief to these communities.

“Even if we’re there for an hour, there is a whole atmosphere that changes,” Choucair said. “There’s a lot of joy that happens in this one hour.”

The road show has performed in Lebanon, Syria, India, Jordan, among others, according to the UN refugee agency.

“The show was good for children, and I hope we can apply its messages,” said Syrian refugee Lamaa Mahmoud, in Arabic. “(I learned that) that children must go to school, they should have their full rights.”

Choucair believes the efforts are making a difference and bringing joy to children.

“We try to record their stories, we try to let their voice be heard, because we think that this is one of the biggest crises happening in the world right now,” Choucair added.

Photo provided by the UN refugee agency.

Graphic video shows Lebanese municipal workers poisoning stray dogs

New graphic video released by a Lebanese animal rights group shows municipal workers allegedly poisoning stray dogs in the southern Beirut suburb of Ghobeiry.

According to the group Animals Lebanon, the workers are accused of luring dogs to poisoned meat and throwing the animals into the back of a municipal vehicle. It is unclear where the dogs are transported.

The animal rights group says they contacted the Ghobeiry municipality and were told the dogs are “aggressive and attacked many people,” according to a post on their Facebook page.

“All of this suffering was completely avoidable and unnecessary,” the group said in a statement. “It brought no benefit to people or animals, and actually harms national efforts to manage homeless dogs.”

President Michel Aoun posted a reminder to Facebook about an animal welfare law passed in August that imposed animal abuse fines of up to $13,000.

“Stray dogs may pose danger to people in several ways but the methods to resolve these cases are also numerous,” Aoun said in a statement. “These methods are definitely not what we have witnessed on television and social media channels especially after the new animal protection law was signed earlier this year.”

Walid Jumblatt, leader of the country’s Druze community, tweeted a photo of his dog and called the incident “absolute ignorance,” and a “crime.”

The animal rights group is calling on Lebanese citizens to contact the Ministry of Interior to urge the practice to be stopped by all municipalities.

GALLERY: Trump, Lebanese PM Hariri meet at the White House

President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri meet at the Oval Office in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)
President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri meet at the Oval Office in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)
President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri host joint press conference outside of The White House in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)
President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri host joint press conference outside of The White House in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)
President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri meet at the Oval Office in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)
President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri meet at the Oval Office in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)
President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri host joint press conference outside of The White House in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)
President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri host joint press conference outside of The White House in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)
President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri host joint press conference outside of The White House in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)
President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri host joint press conference outside of The White House in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)
President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri meet at the Oval Office in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)
President Donald Trump, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri meet at the Oval Office in Washington, DC on July 25. (Wire photo)

RELATED: Trump budget slashes aid to Lebanon by 80 percent


Trump, Hariri pledge solidarity in fighting terrorism

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that supporting Syrian refugees as close to their home as possible is the best way to help them.

Trump commented during an appearance with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose country is burdened by an influx of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria and who is counting on continued U.S. assistance to help manage that burden.

During Hariri’s first visit to the Trump White House, the leaders also pledged continued solidary against terrorism from the Islamic State group and other militant groups.

“Our approach supporting the humanitarian needs of displaced Syrian citizens as close to their home country as possible is the best way to help most people,” said Trump, standing alongside Hariri in the Rose Garden after their talks.

The U.S. has provided billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to help supply displaced and other Syrians with clean water, food, shelter and health care since the civil war broke out in early 2011.

Hariri said Syrian refugees account for about 1.5 million, or one quarter, of Lebanon’s population of about 6 million people. The prime minister was expected to seek additional U.S. assistance to cope with the refugee influx.

RELATED: Trump budget slashes aid to Lebanon by 80 percent

In brief remarks to open one of their meetings, Hariri said he hoped the anti-terrorism partnership between the U.S. and Lebanon would continue until all terrorists are defeated.

“We will do that,” replied Trump, who also praised the Lebanese army for keeping IS and other extremist groups from establishing a foothold in the country. “Ultimately you will win … we have great confidence in you.”

Continued U.S. support for the Lebanese military, financial assistance for Syrian refugees and U.S. plans to tighten sanctions on the militant group Hezbollah were the key items on Hariri’s agenda going into the meeting with Trump.

The Lebanese army in recent years has been battling Islamic extremists near its border with Syria and the country has suffered recurrent bouts of insecurity and spillover from the civil war raging next door.

U.S. security assistance for the Lebanese army has exceeded $1 billion in the past decade, but concern is mounting that the aid could be cut under Trump’s plan to slash the State Department budget.

But Hariri has a tough balancing act. Potentially embarrassing for him is the current offensive to clear Sunni militants along the Lebanon-Syria border, which is being spearheaded by Hezbollah and the Syrian army, with the Lebanese military serving largely as a bystander.

Trump has slammed the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group, and Congress recently introduced legislation to impose stiffer sanctions on the powerful group. Hariri, whose fragile governing coalition includes members of Hezbollah, is worried that U.S. efforts to widen sanctions on Hezbollah could negatively impact the banking industry in Lebanon.

At the same time, he has warned that Lebanon is close to a breaking point due to the strain of hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees.

When asked, Trump declined to offer a position on possible tighter sanctions against Hezbollah.


Lebanese designer launches new ‘angelic’ collection

A Beirut-based fashion studio is catching eyes worldwide after its launch of a glitzy new ‘angelic’ collection of designer dresses.

Lebanese designer Mohammed Ashi is the brains behind the ice-white patterns and intricate embroidery. He has dressed A-list celebrities on the red carpet, including singers Celine Dion and Janelle Monae.

A post shared by Ashi Studio (@ashistudio) on

Ashi’s latest design is described on Instagram as “The Girl on the Moon.” The launch comes months before Paris Fashion Week, which is set to begin on February 27, 2018.

The Ashi brand was launched in 2007 to “tell fairy tales through every meticulously hand crafted design,” according to its website.

Ashi’s biography says he is “attached to his Arab roots yet inspired by diverse cultures.”

For more information on the Ashi brand, click here.

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