Summary: The Canaanites lived in the land of Canaan, an area which, according to ancient texts, may have included parts of modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.
Who Were the Canaanites?
The Canaanites lived in the land of Canaan, an area which, according to ancient texts, may have included parts of modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.
Much of what scholars know about the Canaanites comes from records left by the people they contacted. Some of the most detailed surviving records come from the site of Amarna in Egypt and the Hebrew Bible. Additional information comes from excavations of archaeological sites that the Canaanites are thought to have lived in.
Scholars doubt that the Canaanites were ever politically united into a single kingdom. In fact, archaeological excavations indicate that the "Canaanites" were different ethnic groups. During the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 B.C.), "Canaan was not made up of a single 'ethnic' group but consisted of a population whose diversity may be hinted at by the great variety of burial customs and cultic structures," wrote an archaeology professor.
Canaan (the country or area)/Canaanites (the people), was a Semitic-speaking civilization and region in the Ancient Near East during the late 2nd millennium B.C. The word "Canaanites" serves as an ethnic catch-all term covering various indigenous populations—both settled and nomadic-pastoral groups—throughout the regions of the southern Levant or Canaan, which relate to or denote a family of languages that includes Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic and specific ancient languages such as Phoenician and Akkadian, constituting the central subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic family. Canaan had significant geopolitical importance in the Late Bronze Age Amarna Period (14th century B.C.), where the spheres of interest of the Egyptian, Hittite, Mitanni, and Assyrian Empires converged or overlapped. Much of present-day knowledge about Canaan stems from archaeological excavation in this area at sites such as Tel Hazor, Tel Megiddo, En Esur, and Gezer.
The name "Canaan" appears throughout the Bible, where it corresponds to "the *Levant," in particular to the areas of the Southern Levant that provide the main settings of the narratives of the Bible: the Land of Israel, Philistia, and Phoenicia, that is, the countries bordering on the eastern Mediterranean Sea — often thought of as extending from Greece to Egypt. It is by far the most frequently used ethnic term in the Bible. The Book of Joshua includes Canaanites in a list of nations to exterminate, and scripture elsewhere portrays them as a group that the Israelites had annihilated.
Biblical scholars note that archaeological data suggests "that the Israelite culture largely overlapped Canaanite culture and was derived from Canaanite culture." In short, Israelite culture was largely Canaanite in nature." The name "Canaanites" is confirmed, many centuries later, as the *endonym of the people later known to the Ancient Greeks from c.?500 BC as Phoenicians, and after the emigration of some Canaanite-speakers to Carthage (founded in the 9th century B.C.), was also used as a self-designation by the *Punics (as "Chanani") of North Africa during Late Antiquity.
*endonym - A name used by a group or category of people to refer to themselves or their language, as opposed to a name given to them by another group
*Punics - The Punics were a Semitic-speaking people from Carthage in North Africa who traced their origins to Phoenicians and North
The etymology is uncertain. An early explanation derives the term from the Semitic root, "to be low, humble, subjugated." Some scholars have suggested that this implies an original meaning of "lowlands," unlike Aram, which means "highlands." In contrast, others have suggested it meant "the subjugated," which was the name of Egypt's province in the Levant and similarly evolved into the proper name to Provincia Nostra (the first Roman colony north of the Alps, which became Provence).
There are several periodization systems for Canaan. One of them is the following.
o Prior to 4500 BC (prehistory – Stone Age): hunter-gatherer societies slowly gave way to farming and herding societies;
o 4500–3500 BC (Chalcolithic): early metalworking and farming
o 3500–2000 B.C. (Early Bronze): prior to written records in the area
o 2000–1550 BC (Middle Bronze): city-states
o 1550–1200 BC (Late Bronze): Egyptian domination
After the Iron Age, the periods are named after the various empires that ruled the region: Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic (related to Greece), and Roman.
Canaanite culture developed in situ (in the natural or original position or place.) from multiple waves of migration merging with the earlier Circum-Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex, which in turn developed from a fusion of their ancestral Natufian (Relating to or denoting a late Mesolithic culture of the Middle East, dated to about 12,500–10,000 years ago. It provides evidence for the first settled villages. The use of microliths characterizes it and of bone for implements.) and Harifian cultures (Harifian is a specialized regional cultural development of the Epipalaeolithic - of the Negev Desert. It corresponds to the latest stages of the Natufian culture with Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) farming cultures, practicing animal domestication, during the 6200 BC climatic crisis which led to the Neolithic Revolution/First Agricultural Revolution in the Levant. Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) is part of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, a Neolithic culture centered in upper Mesopotamia and the Levant, dating to c.?10,800 – c.?8,500 years ago, that is, 8800–6500 BC. Like the earlier PPNA people, the PPNB culture developed from the *Mesolithic Natufian culture. However, it shows a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from northeastern Anatolia.