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Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Eatery offers DNA test in Genghis Khan stunt

By JILL LAWLESS
The Associated Press

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LONDON — A London restaurant is offering diners the chance to learn whether they are descended from Mongol ruler Genghis Khan — and win a free meal if they are.

The promotion by the restaurant Shish has proved surprisingly popular, exemplifying how Genghis Khan, once reviled in the West as a tyrant, has gained new respect in his country and among academics.

"We've had Mongolian people who've traveled across London to give us their details," said Hugo Malik, bar manager of Shish, which is giving away one DNA test at each of its two London branches every day through Friday. "They said, 'Grandad always used to tell us we were descended from Genghis Khan.' "

Grandad may have been right. Oxford Ancestors, the firm doing the testing, says up to 17 million men in Central Asia share a pattern of Y chromosomes within their genetic sequences, indicating a common ancestor.

Since Genghis Khan conquered vast tracts of Asia and Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries and sired many offspring, it was assumed the men share his genetic fingerprint.

Because there are no known tissue samples from Genghis Khan, the genetic tests are based on an assessment of probabilities.

Oxford Ancestors, founded four years ago by Oxford University geneticist Bryan Sykes, offers DNA testing to people seeking to trace their genetic roots.

For $330, Oxford Ancestors will tell customers which maternal clan they belong to.

Shish, which specializes in grilled kebabs, said it was offering the tests to honor Mongolia's decision to reintroduce surnames.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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