Experts studied a man dubbed the Young Man of Byrsa or Ariche, whose remains were taken from a sarcophagus in the ancient city of Carthage, just outside Tunis, the Tunisian capital.

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The findings offer the earliest evidence of the European mitochondrial haplogroup U5b2c1 in North Africa, according to Matisoo-Smith, dating its arrival to at least the late sixth century B.C.

It is remarkably rare in modern populations today, found in Europe at levels of less than one per cent.

The Spanish cities of Malaga and Cadiz, for example, were founded by Phoenicians.

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Experts analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of 47 modern Lebanese people and found none were of the U5b2c1 lineage.

"While a wave of farming peoples from the Near East replaced these hunter-gatherers, some of their lineages may have persisted longer in the far south of the Iberian peninsula and on off-shore islands and were then transported to the melting pot of Carthage in North Africa via Phoenician and Punic trade networks," she said, in the press release.

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