- Mummies dating from 2,000 BC to AD 200 were discovered in tombs in the Tarim Basin in northwest China
- Because of their western characteristics and unusual dress and diet, experts thought they were migrants from the Black Sea.
- New genetic analysis indicates that they were not newcomers to the region, but rather direct descendants of ancient North Eurasian peoples.
- The ancient North Eurasian mass disappeared by the end of the last ice age, about 11,550 years ago.
Well-preserved Bronze Age mummies uncovered in the Taklamakan Desert of far west China decades ago were not travelers from the West, as previously theorized, but part of an indigenous group, researchers say. The ancient Ice Age originated from Asian populations.
In the 1990s, about 300 mummies dating from 2,000 BC to AD 200 were excavated in tombs in the Tarim Basin in China’s autonomous Xinjiang Uyghur region.
The region’s arid climate and cold winters preserved the remains, especially the remains of ‘The Beauty of Xiaohe’, whose facial features, clothing, hair and even eyelashes can be seen. (His name is derived from the place where the tombs were discovered.)
The so-called ‘Western’ features of the Tarim Basin mummies – including red and light-brown hairs – along with their unusual clothing and diet, led many experts to believe that they were migrants from the Black Sea region of southern Russia.
That theory was bolstered by the fact that he was buried in boat coffins in the middle of a barren desert.
To get a clearer idea of their origins, an international team of researchers analyzed genomic data from the 13 oldest known mummies, which date back to between 2100 and 1700 BCE.
They compared this to DNA samples from five individuals who lived north in the Dzungarian Basin about 5,000 years ago, making them the oldest known human remains in the region.
The scientists found that the Tarim Basin mummies were not newcomers at all, but were direct descendants of the ancient North Eurasians (ANE), a group that disappeared by the end of the last ice age, about 11,550 years ago.
scroll down for video
The reddish brown hair, unusual clothing, and elaborate diet of the Tarim Basin mummies led experts to believe that they were migrants from southern Russia or other regions west of China.
Only traces of ANE genetics still survive in our current geological epoch, the Holocene: Native Americans and indigenous Siberians maintain the highest known proportions, about 40 percent.
According to one, this Bronze Age community experienced ‘an extreme and prolonged genetic bottleneck before the Tarim Basin was settled’. Statement from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, which is co-sponsored in the research.
“In order to better understand the genetic history of Inner Eurasia, archaeologists have searched for long-Holocene ANE populations,” senior author Chongwon Jeong, a biologist at Seoul National University, said in the release.
“We found one in the most unexpected place,” Chongwon said.
Image: An aerial view of Xiaohe Cemetery, where the mummies were found
Genetic testing indicates that the population was indigenous to the region and was a direct descendant of the ancient North Eurasians, who disappeared by the end of the last ice age. Image: Xiaohe. Profile view of one of the mummies in
According to senior author Christina Warner, Harvard anthropologist, the people of the Tarim Basin were genetically isolated but ‘culturally cosmopolitan’.
“They seem to have openly adopted new ideas and technologies from their pastoral and farmer neighbors, while also developing unique cultural elements not shared by any other group,” Warner pointed out. CNN.
Pictured: Burial goods excavated with mummies, many of which were found in boat coffins
They wore lace and woven woolen clothes, used medicinal plants such as ephedra from Central Asia; And even ate kefir cheese, which originated in the North Caucasus.
Senior author Yinqiu Cui, a professor in the School of Life Sciences at Jilin University in Changchun, China, said the discovery of the origins of the Tarim Basin mummies ‘has had a transformative impact on our understanding of the region.’
Yinquiu said he hopes to analyze ancient human genomes from other eras ‘to gain a deeper understanding of the history of human migration across the Eurasian Steppes.’
The group’s findings were published in the journal Nature.
3,800-year-old mummy ‘Beauty of Xiaohe’ discovered in Tarim Basin in far western China
In 2011, China temporarily barred mummies from being displayed after months of touring North America.
Officials gave no reason why the exhibition was halted, but there was speculation that it may be linked to the western presence of the mummy and an inherent Chinese sensibility to the region’s history.