Vitaly Goldberg, the J-L817 Y-DNA clade project administrator, has identified a possible origin for the J-L817 subclade that may also explain the origins of R1a1a Ashkenazi Levites. Goldberg states:
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I agree that R1a1a is by far the largest group shared by Ashkenazi Levites, but I would like to point your attention to another relatively large clade where a non-negligible number of persons have a family tradition of being Levites or surnames associated with Levites.
Namely it is the L817 clade downstream of J-P58 (J1c3). This clade is very isolated from the neighbouring branches of J-P58. An absolute majority of known or predicted L817 persons are Ashkenazi Jews (L816 subclade below L817), and a few rare cases of presumed L817 persons with Asian roots originate from Northern Syria (Jewish person), South-Eastern Turkey (Kurdish person) and Western Iran (ethnicity unknown).
While R1a1a Levites are often discussed in the Khazarian context, in the case of J-L817/L816 Ashkenazim I would consider an earlier and less often discussed story of conversion to Judaism – one of the kings and possibly part of the ruling elite of the semi-independent kingdom of Adiabene around the beginning of the common era (Adiabene was located at roughly the same place as modern Iraqi Kurdistan). The Adiabene and Khazar stories may actually be linked – it is said that Judaism was brought into Khazaria by Jewish refugees from the Parthian empire.
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More detailed information about the J-L817 clade is posted here.
Ted Kandell, Group Administrator of the G2b-M377 / L72 / L183 / M283 Y Haplogroup Project (formerly G2c), posted in 2006 about the potential effect on the Jewish Y-DNA pool of the acceptance of Judaism by the rulers and inhabitants of the Kurdish kingdom of Adiabene in the first century of the Common Era.
A.J. Levin, Group Administrator of the Ashkenazi-Levite DNA Project (R1a1), has commented as follows on an admixture map showing a significant admixture event in the Adygei population in about 990 BCE (Adygea is located to the northeast of the Black Sea, not far from Khazaria):
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The autosomal contribution among the Adygei around 990 BCE is consistent with the Assyrian expansion into the Caucasus. I don't think we have considered yet that Z2122 might be a northern Near Eastern signature that eventually came from Z94 further north, but which was at home in Adiabene and Assyria among nomadic Iranians for some time. It is known that the Queen of Adiabene converted to Judaism and moved to Jerusalem about 150 years before the destruction of the Temple, and donated a large amount of money to the Temple. It is easy to see how this could have led to an Assyrian-Jewish Levite contingent, and her family names suggest she was from an Iranian-speaking rather than Semitic Assyrian origin.
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Further discussion is posted on the Anthrogenica thread on R1a Ashkenazi Levites.
"Hebraique": Costume of Hebrew People: Priests and Levites - lithograph by Racinet after drawing by Waret, published by Firmin Didot, Paris, 1878
13, 14, 16 & 17: The catecon, the basic article of Levite costume. It was shorter than that worn by the Egyptians, so Moses decreed that a long tunic should be worn on top of it.
19: A fitted undergarment with tight sleeves, which in, this case stops at the knees. It was worn by the priests under their ceremonial costume.
15, 16 & 17: Examples of belts worn by the Levites. They were often made of snake skin (15 & 16), following Egyptian custom. Moses did not specify whether these should be colored like those worn by the high priests or whether they should be all white. The belts were wrapped around the body several times and the ends hung down.