What is the Levant DNA Region on Ancestry?

If you've recently done a DNA test and the result revealed "Levant Region" as your ethnicity, you might wonder what that means. In this article we'll cover where this region is, the history of it, the genetic makeup of the region, and much more!

With most regions listed on Ancestry DNA you can usually tell where in the world they refer to because often they are named after a country of known geographical region. On occasion though you might come across an unusual region name such as Levant.

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It is not immediately clear where this Levant region would be based on the name and if this appears in your ethnicity report you will likely want answers. So what exactly is the Levant region? Where is it? And what does it mean to have ancestry from this region? If you are seeking all these answers and more read on.

What Is the Levant Region?

In terms of AncestryDNA regions the Levant region is one of the subregions in West Asia along with Arabian Peninsula, Iran/Persia, Anatolia & Caucasus and other additional West Asian communities. Geographically speaking the Levant region is between the Levantine Sea to the west, Iraq to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south and Turkey to the north.

The peoples of this region share an historical and cultural connection due to their close proximity to the Mediterranean. They have been historically impacted by the economy, climate, politics and geography of the region.

It is often considered to be the crossroads between the Mediterranean and Asia. It has also long been a hub for the exchange of trade, culture and language between Africa, Asia and Europe. Its importance in this way earned the region the nickname of “The Fertile Crescent.”

What Are the Subregions of Levant?

There are actually three main subregions of the Levant region covering a number of the area's countries. If they were to appear in your ethnicity report these might help you better approximate where your ancestors are from. These subregions also have their own subregions as well which could further focus your research.

Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt Region Subregions

  • Beirut, Damascus & Sidon Triangle
  • Nile Delta
  • Northern Coastal Levant
  • Southern Lebanon & Northern Israel/Palestine

Northern Lebanon & Mount Lebanon Region Subregions

  • Mount Lebanon
  • North Lebanon

Western Levant Region Subregion

  • Israel/Palestine, Beirut & Damascus
  • Lebanon
  • Northern Lebanon & Northwest Syria
  • Southern Lebanon & Damascus

What Countries Make up the Levant Region?

There are only a handful of countries that fall into the Levant region but there are a few others who have small populations near their geographical borders that exhibit this DNA.

Countries in the Levant Region

  • Israel/Palestine
  • Syria
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon

Neighboring Countries with Small Populations with Levant DNA

  • Saudi Arabia
  • Iraq
  • Egypt
  • Turkey

History of the Levant Region

The earliest signs of hominid occupation in the Levant region were discovered in the Jordan Valley in what is known today as Israel. A collection of stone tools were discovered dating back almost 1.5 million years ago. The style matched closely with earlier tools found in East Africa leading many to believe that these early hominids originated from that region.

Over hundreds of thousands of years cultures developed in the region and vast developments occurred in terms of scientific advances. Some of the earliest farming occurred in this region and many of the earliest major settlements arose in the so-called fertile crescent.

It was around 586 BC the Babylonian empire originating out of what is modern day Iraq took control of much of the Levant region. A few decades later around 538 BC the Babylonians were replaced by the Persian Empire who themselves originated in Iran.

The turbulence of the region eventually led to another regime change two centuries later when Alexander the Great of Macedonia made the region part of his own extensive empire. Upon his death his generals fought over his great empire resulting in the creation of several other minor empires over the next few centuries.

In around 64 BC it was the turn of the Roman Empire to start taking control of the region. This brought great conflict to the region for several centuries. It was around the 4th century AD that the holy roman emperor Constantine made Christianity an accepted religion throughout the region.

This support of Christianity would serve to be the start of hundreds of years of religious conflict throughout the Levant region. It added greatly to the diversity of the region with people throughout Asia, Africa and Europe all finding their way to the Fertile Crescent.

Where Does Your Levant DNA Come From?

You are likely to have Levant DNA if you have a recent ancestor who came from one of the countries located in that region. It is also possible that you may have Levant DNA if your ancestors came from a neighboring country just outside of that region.

Even if it comes from a neighboring country it is likely that at some point in history you did have an ancestor from the Levant region. It is also important to note that thousands of years of global trade has seen people from the Levant region spread around the world.

You may have an ancestor from Germany who generations earlier had an ancestor from the Levant region. Depending how far back this ancestor is in your tree it is possible that you would never be able to trace that early migration into Europe.

More recent migrations have seen people from Lebanon settle in South America as well as the United States. After several generations it may no longer be obvious where those early ancestors came from but Levant DNA in your ethnicity estimate is a good indication.

Can You Trace Your Levant Region Ancestors?

As is always the case the higher percentage you have from a specific region the more closely connected your ancestors were to that area. A high Levant Region DNA percentage would likely indicate a recent connection to that area.

If the ancestor from that region moved away just a few generations ago you have a reasonable chance of tracing who they were. This is especially true if you are given one of the smaller subregions found in the Levant area.

Knowing for example that 25% of your DNA comes from Jordan can be very beneficial in targeting your research. At some point your ancestor arrived in the area you now live and may have created immigration records when they did so.

It does become more tricky if you have small percentages of a certain ethnicity. This can indicate a more distant ancestor and in some cases perhaps a false positive. Sometimes DNA segments that look like one thing are merely a random coincidence of recombination.

The DNA may appear to indicate descent from the Levant Region but it is merely accidental and you may not have ever had an ancestor from that area.

When our Levant ancestors are distant this can be very hard to trace. The window in which documentation for most people would exist is finite so if we have to go back to many generations there may be no possible proof to help us find those ancestors.

Conclusion

The Levant region is one with a long and varied history. It was an area that saw some of the earliest civilizations and was part of many extensive empires over the years. A veritable hub for Europe, Asia and Africa it helped form the connected world we have today.

Religions in this region vary but there is an undeniable cultural connection between all of the Levant region countries. Despite their commonality, however, the countries of the Levant region have long had a history of conflict and even today there are almost constant tensions.

Early trade routes spread DNA from the Levant region around Asia, Africa and Europe as did later conflicts which saw mass emigration from the region in search of a more stable home. Even those who fled the region due to conflict still hold strongly to their cultures.

If you possess Levant DNA you have ancestors from a very diverse and historically rich region of the world.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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  • "What is the Levant DNA Region on Ancestry?". NameCensus.com. Accessed on May 22, 2024. https://namecensus.com/blog/what-is-the-levant-dna-region-on-ancestry/.

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