Some ancient DNA results from the Tarim Basin

Note: some clown references this paper on Wikipedia in the following context:
The cemetery at Yanbulaq contained 29 mummies which date from 1800–500 BC, 21 of which are Caucasoid—the earliest Caucasoid mummies found in the Tarim Basin—and eight of which are of the same Caucasoid physical type found at Qäwrighul.[1]:237 . However, more recent genetic studies painted a more complex picture (Xie et al., 2007). It showed both european and asian characteristics.

In fact, this study has no bearing on the origins of the Northern Europoid "Tarim mummies". Sampul is a much later site, which according to physical anthropologists was populated primarily by Central Asian "Eastern Mediterranean" types. Mallory and Mair discuss the findings of Han Kangxin:
The Qäwrighul remains are relatively homogeneous and they exhibit features associated with a type known as Proto-Europoid, a rather robust Caucasoid, especially well represented in Northern Europe and the steppelands and forest-steppe of Russia and the Ukraine. Similar remains occur in the Bronze Age cemeteries of southern Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia and the Lower Volga. [. . .]

The next oldest remains derive from the Yanbulaq cemetery near Humul (Hami), situated to the northeast of Qäwrighul and the easternmost cemetery investigated. Here Han Kangxin identified 21 of the 29 complete skulls as Mongoloids and these are the earliest definite evidence of Mongoloids in East Central Asia. The remaining skulls, however, belonged to Caucasoids who are closest to those from Qäwrighul and point to the same general direction for their origins, i.e. the steppelands to the north and west.

The single skull recovered from among the inhumation burials at Shambalay near Tahkurgan in the far west of the Tarim Basin has been compared with the type that spanned the Mediterranean across Central Asia; this type also includes the Saka tribes of the southern Pamirs.

A much larger sample of 58 skulls was recovered from one of the mass graves at Alwighul in the Tangri Tagh (Tian Shan). Here Han distinguishes two Caucasoids types: the Eastern Mediterranean or Indo-Afghan type with their long and high skulls and the broader and rounder skulls of the Pamir-Ferghana type; Han also identified hybrids of these two subtypes as well as some evidence of Mongoloid admixture. By now, the attentive reader will know we owe another caveat; the three physical types employed by Han Kangxin -- Proto-Europoids, Indo-Afghans and Pamir-Ferghanans -- are largely relabelled Nordics, Mediterraneans, and Alpines, terms that send shivers of apprehension down the spines of Western biological anthropologists.

[. . .]

The Sampul cemetery provides us with our only physical anthropological evidence of the southern Silk Road in the vicinity of Khotan. Although the cemetery contained various individual graves employing some form of log coffin, all the burials examined derive from the group graves which date to the first centuries BC. Han Kangxin has identified the remains as belonging to the same Indo-Afghan type that one encounters among the Saka of the southern Pamirs.

[pp. 236-239; The Tarim Mummies]

Progress in Natural Science, Volume 17, Number 8, pp. 927-933(7)

Mitochondrial DNA analysis of ancient Sampula population in Xinjiang

Xie Chengzhi Li Chunxiang Cui Yinqiu Cai Dawei Wang Haijing Zhu Hong Zhou Hui

Abstract: The archaeological site of Sampula cemetery was located about 14 km to the southwest of the Luo County in Xinjiang Khotan, China, belonging to the ancient Yutian kingdom. 14C analysis showed that this cemetery was used from 217 B.C. to 283 A.D. Ancient DNA was analyzed by 364 bp of the mitochondrial DNA hypervariable region I (mtDNA HVR-I), and by six restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) sites of mtDNA coding region. We successfully extracted and sequenced intact stretches of maternally inherited mtDNA from 13 out of 16 ancient Sampula samples. The analysis of mtDNA haplogroup distribution showed that the ancient Sampula was a complex population with both European and Asian characteristics. Median joining network of U3 sub-haplogroup and multi-dimensional scaling analysis all showed that the ancient Sampula had maternal relationship with Ossetian and Iranian.

Keywords: ancient DNA mitochondrial DNA Sampula ancient populations


The authors detect the following haplogroups: U3 (in four individuals), N (x2), C (x2), B, F1a, G, M, and T2.

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