A 1692 depiction of Canaan, by Philip Lea
|Polities and peoples|
Canaan (//; Northwest Semitic: knaʿn; Phoenician: 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍 Kenā‘an; Hebrew: כְּנָעַן Kena‘an) was a Semitic-speaking region in the Ancient Near East during the late 2nd millennium BC. 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 setting of the narrative of the Bible: i.e., the area of Phoenicia, Philistia, Israel, and other nations.
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. It is by far the most frequently used ethnic term in the Bible. In the Book of Joshua, Canaanites are included in a list of nations to exterminate, and later described as a group which the Israelites had annihilated, although this narrative is not accepted by contemporary scholarship. The name "Canaanites" (כְּנָעַנִיְם kena‘anim, כְּנָעַנִי kena‘anī) is attested, many centuries later, as the endonym of the people later known to the Ancient Greeks from c. 500 BC as Phoenicians, and following the emigration of Canaanite-speakers to Carthage (founded in the 9th century BC), was also used as a self-designation by the Punics (chanani) of North Africa during Late Antiquity.
Canaan had significant geopolitical importance in the Late Bronze Age Amarna period (14th century BC) as the area where the spheres of interest of the Egyptian, Hittite, Mitanni and Assyrian Empires converged. Much of modern knowledge about Canaan stems from archaeological excavation in this area at sites such as Tel Hazor, Tel Megiddo, and Gezer.