Donnerstag, 8. Februar 2007

Europeans in China (220 BC)

From time to time we receive new facts about european genetical influences in China, most probably mediated by the Tocharians living from 2000 BC to 400 AD in the Talimakan desert at the north-western border of China. Evidenced by hundreds of mummies in Urumchi museum. But a lot of other european-derived populations also existed in the eurasian steppe around the boarders of China.

In summer last year "Archaeology" magazine had an interview with Victor Mair, one of the specialists concerning european influences in bronze age China, where new facts were mentioned (not very precise - but you have to take what you can get).

Are new DNA findings a surprise or just one more piece of evidence for China's early connections?

According to a news report from China, DNA analysis indicates that at least one of the workers who constructed the tomb of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of China, was in fact of west Eurasian ancestry. ARCHAEOLOGY talked to the University of Pennsylvania's Victor Mair about this announcement and its implications for understanding ancient connections between China and the West. (...)

DNA analysis from archaeological remains can be very tricky. What can you tell us about the researchers involved with this case?

For the present time, I will say this about the genetics research that forms the basis of the recent announcement. First of all, it was done in the very best population genetics lab in China, that of Prof. Jin Li at Fudan. This is a state of the art facility. I have visited it several times, and I can attest that the equipment and skills of the researchers there are at a world standard. I know Xu Zhi and Tan Jingze, both of whom were quoted in the reports. These are careful, serious scientists. Incidentally, early DNA specialists from Jilin University in northeast China are also working on the Tarim Basin mummies at the moment. I have visited that lab too, and I am certain that it will be the source of equally remarkable news before long.

Was just this one set of remains tested?

Of the 121 shattered skeletons, 15 were tested, but so far only one of them appears to have a west Eurasian genetic profile. It is said that his genetic features mark him as belonging to T-genodeme, which unmistakably belongs to a western haplotype. Specifically, Chinese geneticists say that this links him with people living to the west of the Pamirs: the Parsi (Persians) in India and Pakistan, the Kurds in Turkmenistan, and the Persians in Iran. (...)

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