The Lemba story jumps the shark

Not only are they one of the lost tribes of Israel, now Tudor Parfitt says they are hiding the Lost Ark of the Covenant:

Parfitt started wondering about another aspect of the Lemba's now-credible oral history: a drumlike object called the ngoma lungundu. The ngoma, according to the Lemba, was near-divine, used to store ritual objects, and borne on poles inserted into rings. It was too holy to touch the ground or to be touched by non-priests, and it emitted a "Fire of God" that killed enemies and, occasionally, Lemba. A Lemba elder told Parfitt, "[It] came from the temple in Jerusalem. We carried it down here through Africa."

Needless to say (since Parfitt's book is the companion for a History Channel special on March 2), he finds the ngoma, and it has an "uncharacteristic burnt-black bottom hole." Naturally, he is forced into the only possible conclusion: The Ark of the Covenant was actually a gunpowder-powered spirit drum bazooka:

Parfitt thinks that whatever the supernatural character of Ark, it was, like the ngoma, a combination of reliquary, drum and primitive weapon, fueled with a somewhat unpredictable proto-gunpowder. That would explain the unintentional conflagrations.

Oh, yes. Or...maybe the problem is that they tried to keep some of those red-hot spirit stones from the Temple of Doom in it. Anyway, let's not be deterred by petty technicalities like carbon dating:

So, had he found the Ark? Yes and no, he concluded. A splinter has carbon-dated the drum to 1350 AD -- ancient for an African wood artifact, but 2,500 years after Moses. Undaunted, Parfitt asserts that "this is the Ark referred to in Lemba tradition" -- Lemba legend has it that the original ngoma destroyed itself some 400 years ago and had to be rebuilt on its own "ruins" -- "constructed by priests to replace the previous Ark. There can be little doubt that what I found is the last thing on earth in direct descent from the Ark of Moses."

If you don't know the Lemba genetic story, I like this Slate article by Jon Cohen. They are a South African tribe. The basic idea is that Lemba men carry a relatively high proportion of Middle Eastern Y chromosome haplotypes, including the famous Cohen modal haplotype, otherwise common in men of Jewish descent. Parfitt spent time with the Lemba and helped popularize their folkloric story of an ancient exodus from the north.

The article introduces Parfitt as a "real life scholar-adventurer," which as you can imagine inspired this conversation:

Me: Should I make the transition to "scholar-adventurer"?

Gretchen: You can be a scholar-adventurer as long as it doesn't involve the Lost Ark, or King Solomon's mines, or the Holy Grail.

Me: So pretty much your classic Indiana Jones adventures are out?

Gretchen: Yeah. Also, any kind of ape encounter, especially involving sign language. Don't go in search of Zinj -- that had a bad end. Stay away from any kind of oceanic exploration, where they have a big "facility" under the sea -- always a bad end; everybody dies.

But if you're looking for the Lost World, or -- ooh -- the Skunk Ape. Or Chupacabra.

Me: No, the cryptozoologists don't like me. How about the Maltese Falcon?

Gretchen: Ooh, yeah -- something with that hint of mystery and danger. You may also search for "Rosebud."