(JTA) — DNA tests on the Lemba tribe of central Zimbabwe and northern South Africa show that they are of Jewish or Semitic origin, the BBC reported.
The tribe’s customs are similar to Jewish ones, including male circumcision, ritual animal slaughter, abstaining from eating pork and wearing skull caps. And their oral tradition claims they are descended from seven male Jews who left Israel 2,500 years ago and married African women, according to the BBC.
Their prized religious artifact is a replica of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant known as the ngoma lungundu, meaning "the drum that thunders," the BBC reported. Their sacred prayer language is a mixture of Hebrew and Arabic.
The Lemba also have 12 tribes, including a priestly clan that has a genetic element found in Jewish priests or Cohanim, according to the report.
Many of the Lemba in Zimbabwe are Christians, while some are Muslims.
Professor Tudor Parfitt of the University of London has spent 20 years researching the Lemba, and lived with them for six months.
"Many people say that the story is far-fetched, but the oral traditions of the Lemba have been backed up by science," Parfitt told the BBC.