The Samaritans are a group of some 750 indigenous Middle Eastern people, about half of whom live in Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, and the other half near Nablus. The Samaritan population is believed to have numbered more than a million in late Roman times but less than 150 in 1917. The ancestry of the Samaritans has been subject to controversy from late Biblical times to the present. In this study, liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization/quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometry was used to allelotype 13 Y-chromosomal and 15 autosomal microsatellites in a sample of 12 Samaritans chosen to have as low a level of relationship as possible, and 461 Jews and non-Jews. Estimation of genetic distances between the Samaritans and seven Jewish and three non-Jewish populations from Israel, as well as populations from Africa, Pakistan, Turkey, and Europe, revealed that the Samaritans were closely related to Cohanim. This result supports the position of the Samaritans that they are descendants from the tribes of Israel dating to before the Assyrian exile in 722–720 BCE. In concordance with previously published single-nucleotide polymorphism haplotypes, each Samaritan family, with the exception of the Samaritan Cohen lineage, was observed to carry a distinctive Y-chromosome short tandem repeat haplotype that was not more than one mutation removed from the six-marker Cohen modal haplotype.
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Vol. 85 • No. 6