What Is Wrong With This Picture?

The ngoma, a sacred wooden drum-- or Ark of the Covenant?

 

a.)  Assumed biblical historicity  

b.) DNA interpretation  

c.) Correctness of artifact identification  

c.) Essentialist ethnic identity assertions  

d.) Implied allegorical significance in contemporary Zimbabwe  

e.) Resurrection of Rider Haggardism  

   

Extra credit will be given for all additional problems/issues identified.  

From the Jewish Chronicle Online:  

African ‘Jewish’ tribe displays its lost ark

By Moira Schneider, April 22, 2010

Members of an African tribe are displaying a sacred object they believe to be the Ark of the Covenant in a Harare museum.  

The item is a ngoma, a sacred drum made of wood. According to oral tradition, a ngoma was carried from Israel by the Lemba, a South African tribe who believe they are descendants of Jews from the Middle East. After it burst into flame and was destroyed, another ngoma – the one currently on display – was constructed from the ruins.  

DNA research has traced the Lemba’s origins to the Middle East. More remarkably, a genetic marker largely found only in Cohanim, descendants of the ancient Jewish priesthood, is present in the same proportions among the Lemba’s own priests, known as the Buba.  

The 80,000 Lemba people, who live in Zimbabwe and northern South Africa, have many customs in common with Jewish tradition, including male circumcision, refraining from eating pork, allowing the blood to drain from an animal before they eat it, wearing skullcaps and prayer shawls during rituals and adorning some tombstones with Stars of David.  

But Alex Makotore of Harare, son of a late chief of the Lemba, says that the tribe does not claim to be Jewish. He accuses scholars of trying to impose a foreign identity on them.  

“We don’t want to look like people who are looking for an identity,” he said. “We’ve got our own African identity, we are not looking for our roots.  

“They call us black Jews, but it is them [the scientists] that call us that. If we are linked to the Jews, then fair and fine, but we cannot rightly say that it is only the Jews that [have those customs].”  

He does say he is “excited” about a possible connection to the Old Testament, but says the Lemba are unconcerned that there is little connection with the local Jewish community.  

“We don’t look for them. We don’t want to end up with a situation where we feel second-rate to another race.”  

By contrast, Perez Hamandishe, member of parliament from the Movement for Democratic Change and a pastor in the Pentecostal church, says that the Lemba believe that they are Jews.  

“We are Jews by blood,” he insists, adding that like the majority of the Lemba, he is Christian by religion, but Jewish by culture.  

“My lifestyle is Jewish, we observe everything Jewish – we only eat kosher,” he said. “If I go to a Gentile house, I don’t eat their food. When I travel, I carry my own pots and food. I don’t eat prawns, fish without scales or rabbit.”  

Sam Benatar, president of the Zimbabwe Jewish Board of Deputies, said that there were “all sorts of claims all over Africa by people purporting to be Jewish”, but the Lemba’s belief “may well be true”.  

Peter Sternberg, former president of the Board, said that the Lemba “are virtually all either Christians or Muslims – one should really leave it at that.”  

The story of the Lemba Ark was originally revealed by Tudor Parfitt, professor of Hebrew at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, in his book The Lost Ark of the Covenant.  

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4 thoughts on “What Is Wrong With This Picture?

  1. I mean, it doesn’t really seem to fit the description of the Ark that well, for what it’s worth. What are your thoughts on it?

    I remember watching a program on the history channel that claimed the Ark was in a church in Yemen somewhere, and that seemed pretty dubious. So does this.

    • I mean obviously it doesn’t look like the biblical descriptions– but then again if it did, it would be an obvious attempt to copy them. Hey look, Henry, this Ark of the Covenant stuff is as bogus as the Noah’s Ark searches– and the DNA stuff seems to be a pretty ominous re-racialization of history. Besides it is so heavily interpretive (at least right now) that it’s more or less useless. The guy who did the Lemba stuff also implied that people named Cohen were descended from Aaron who lived around 3000 years ago. Strange mix of bio-tech and fundamentalism!

  2. as a drum yes it is, and relationships with drums and arks are somehow , yes, related yet the carbon dating proves it to be a very late copy and no doubt a replacement drum at that for one of the 15,000 copies of the ark made first by Bilquis, Queen of Sheba to hide the real location of the ark itself. her fleet of more than 400 ships took the copies to as many corners of the world as were known to her at that time. in short..it is not worth much to mention historically and surely not a question to be mixed into the search for the ark

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