lost tribes, 10 Israelite tribes that, according to the Bible, were transported to Assyria by Tiglathpileser III or Shalmaneser after the conquest of Israel in 722 B.C. Numerous conjectures have been advanced as to the fate of these tribes: they have been identified with the people of Arabia, India, Ethiopia, and America (North, Central, South) and with other groups, including the Nestorians of Mesopotamia, the Afghans, the high-caste Hindus, and the holy Shindai class of Japan. The Anglo-Israelite theory identifies the English people with the lost tribes; it was, in the 17th cent., a factor in helping the Jews to reenter England. The identification of the Native North Americans with the 10 lost tribes figured in the writings of the early New England Christian theologians.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.