NEW YORK, N.Y., and HAIFA, Israel, July 9, 1998 -- The finding last year of genetic links among Jewish men thought to be descendants of the Biblical high priest Aaron was greeted with tremendous interest and clamoring for more information. A team of British and Israeli scientists have now found additional information that links the priestly cast, the Cohanim, which includes men with last names that are variations on "Cohen."
Using a combination of molecular genetics and mathematical analysis, the scientists arrived an an estimated date for the most recent common ancestor of contemporary Cohanim. According to this analysis, the common ancestor lived between the Exodus (approx. 1000 B.C.E) and the destruction of the first Temple (586 B.C.E.), consistent with the biblical account. Similar results were obtained based on analysis of either Sephardi or Ashkenzi communities, confirming the ancestral link of the two communities which had been separated for more than 500 years.
The study by Prof. Karl Skorecki of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, and colleagues at the Rambam Medical Center, Oxford University, University College London and University of London is published in the July 9 Nature.
The findings received an added boost when the researchers discovered that by contrast, the Y chromosome of many contemporary Levites, descended from the the tribe of Levi of which Moses was a member, display distinct sets of genetic markers, suggesting a heterogeneous pattern of descent which does not reflect a single pattern of direct paterilineal lineage.
The findings are based on the analysis of genetic markers in the DNA of Y-chromosomes of Jewish male priests from different countries of origin in comparison with their Jewish male Levite and lay counterparts.
The Y-chromosome is uniquely useful in this analysis because the
Y-chromosome of any individual can be traced back e
Contact: Martha Molnar
American Society for Technion - Israel Institute of Technology