DNA Confirms Tribe’s Oral History of Israeli Jewish AncestryPosted: March 18, 2010
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This little village in Zimbabwe is a long way from the Holy Land, but DNA evidence says that the Lemba tribe which lives here are direct descendants of an ancient line of Jewish priests who fled the middle east over 2000 years ago.
According to Lemba Pastor Perez Hamandishe, the DNA tests have legitimized their long-claimed ancestry.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) LEMBA MAN, PEREZ HAMANDISHE:
“Our history unfortunately hasn’t been recorded. Unfortunately there are no written documents on our history, but our ancestors, our forefathers have been telling us about our history, they say that we come from Israel.”
The findings are the work of a British scholar who spent two decades researching the Lemba.
Professor Tudor Parfitt of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London says that though the genetic link is remarkable, one of the Lemba’s holy artefacts might be an even more important discovery.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR TUDOR PARFITT, SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES:
“Well, it was an extraordinary moment to see that these oral traditions which seemed so unlikely and so dodgy were actually confirmed by hard science. And it was at that moment that I realised that their stories about the ngoma, which they associated with the Ark of the Covenant and in terms of its functionality was exactly the same thing. I thought: ‘Well, they said that their priests brought it from the Middle East…these priests share the signature with Jewish priests, who are now shown to be descended from the Jerusalem priests — there must be a connection.”
Professor Parfitt found the ngoma collecting dust in the Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences.
It is now on display in Harare, though the Curator of the Ark, Farai Chibata cautions that further proof is needed to confirm its legitimacy.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) FARAI CHIBATA, ARK CURATOR, SAYING:
“We are not saying that people believe that this is the real one or don’t believe…We are just saying we want to tap into the views of different people as part of the process of generating more and more information.”
Carbon testing dates the ngoma to about 700 years old, though Lemba tradition says that it is a reconstruction created using fragments of the original lost Ark of the Covenant