Tracing ancestry of Jewish priests (Cohenim), Michael Hammer
Interviewee: Michael Hammer.
Geneticist Michael Hammer speaks about Y-chromosome studies used to correlate a population's tradition with its genetics.
(DNAi Location: Applications > Human origins > Gene genealogy >Tracing ancestries > Genetics and culture: the Cohenim)
In Judaism, there is a role for a man called a Cohen or a priest, and the first high priest is written about in the Bible: Aaron, brother of Moses, was the first high priest in, for the Jewish people. And that tradition has been passed from Aaron to his sons, and from their sons to their sons, over a number of generations to present day. So today, if you go to a Jewish synagogue, there will be a priest, or a Cohen doing what the priestly line has done for centuries. And it, about 7% of Jewish men today, are Jewish priests. So our question was if the priesthood \u2013 sort of a cultural characteristic, if you will, that has been passed from father to son for these generations \u2013 if the records have been kept very carefully, then there should be some correlation with the Y chromosome, because the Y chromosome is also passed from father to son. So if we were to look at variation in the Y chromosome of Jewish priests today, would we see a signal of common ancestry that would be unique and somehow identify the lineage leading back to Aaron, or would we not see that pattern? That was our question. And it was, probably if you think about it, there aren't many cases like this, where a cultural characteristic has been passed on so carefully from so many generations going back hundreds and hundreds of years, that we could actually ask this kind of question. There are other paternally inherited cultural characters, but not going back this many generations. So to our amusement or surprise, or to our great interest, we found that in fact there was a signature of a common ancestry seen among Jewish priests living today, that was unique and distinct from that of Jewish men who are not priests.
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