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Genetic study proves Israel's wild boars originated in Europe

entral hills, where Ancient Israel is thought to have emerged. The researchers set out to determine whether the Philistines and other Sea Peoples groups of seafaring invaders from around the Aegean Sea made use of local pig breeds or brought new ones with them from their native lands. Because there is not much difference in the size and the shape between European and Near Eastern pigs, the researchers had to use DNA testing to identify the origins of the animals.

Genetics researchers divide the pigs of the world into three main groups: European, Far Eastern, and Near Eastern. To the researchers' surprise, each of the 25 modern-day wild boars they analyzed from Israel share a European genetic signature, whereas modern-day boars from nearby countries, like Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Armenia, Iraq, and Iran, have a Near Eastern genetic signature. The researchers conclude that European pigs arrived in Israel at some point and overtook the local pig population.

To find out when, the researchers collected and analyzed pig bones from archaeological sites across Israel ranging from the Neolithic period to medieval times, 9500 BCE to 1200 CE the most comprehensive study of ancient DNA carried out in Israel in terms of both number of samples and time span. The results showed that pigs from the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age display the local Near Eastern genetic signature, while a European genetic signature appears early in the Iron Age, around 900 BCE, and has been dominant ever since. Domestic European pig breeds may have been introduced by groups of "Sea Peoples" including the Philistines, mentioned in the Bible who migrated to the coast of the Levant starting in the 12th century BCE and settled in places like Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ashdod.

Making themselves at home

Additional European pigs could have been brought to the Levant during the Roman-Byzantine period and during the Crusades. Over time, the European pigs over

Contact: George Hunka
American Friends of Tel Aviv University

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