ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Genetic Common Ground in the Mideast

As members of relatively small, cohesive populations, Jews have caught the attention of molecular anthropologists, much as Basques and Icelanders have. Thus, Jewish men who reported being descendants of ancient Jewish priests (Cohens) were found to display distinctive patterns of Y chromosome polymorphisms1; the common ancestor of these "Cohen" chromosomes was dated back to the Old Testament era of about 2,600 to 3,200 years.2 A clan of the Lemba, a black group in southern Africa that claims Je

Douglas Steinberg

As members of relatively small, cohesive populations, Jews have caught the attention of molecular anthropologists, much as Basques and Icelanders have. Thus, Jewish men who reported being descendants of ancient Jewish priests (Cohens) were found to display distinctive patterns of Y chromosome polymorphisms1; the common ancestor of these "Cohen" chromosomes was dated back to the Old Testament era of about 2,600 to 3,200 years.2 A clan of the Lemba, a black group in southern Africa that claims Jewish descent, was recently shown to have a Y pattern characteristic of Cohens.3

In a paper published last month, an international team of researchers used Y polymorphisms to examine a broad swath of Jewish populations.4 Harry Ostrer, a member of the team and director of the human genetics program at New York University School of Medicine, recalls the questions motivating the study: "What is the degree of...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?
ADVERTISEMENT