China’s well-preserved mummies provide new clues to life in the Bronze Age

Aerial view of Xiaohe cemetery in Tarim Basin.

Hundreds of natural mummified human remains in the Tarim Basin of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have long troubled archaeologistsThe history of these ruins can be traced back to around 2,000 BC to around 200 AD, and they are confusing due to their extraordinary state of preservation. Luxurious clothing,They were buried in boat coffins in sand dunes miles away from the sea.

The mummies in the Tarim Basin are not similar to the modern residents of the area, so different research teams believe they It may come from near the Black Sea, or it may be related to a group of people from the Iranian plateau.

Recently, aAnalysis of n international research teams The genomes of some of the earliest mummies from the Tarim Basin.They found people Buried there without migration From the Black Sea steppe, Iran, or anywhere else-to be more precise, analysis shows that they are the direct descendants of the ancient Nordic Asians (ANE), a population that existed widely during the Pleistocene, and now it is mainly based on certain populations. Genetic fragments are representative. Genome.The team’s research is Publish Today in nature.

Mummy in the Turan Basin.

“Archaeological geneticists have long been searching for Holocene ANE populations to better understand the genetic history within Eurasia. We found one in the most unexpected place,” the co-author of the study, Seoul National University Said Choongwon Jeong, a geneticist and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Press release.

Being direct descendants of the Ancient North Eurasians, the people of the Tarim Basin didn’t mix with other populations in the vicinity. And there were plenty. The team compared the mummies’ genetics with those of a neighboring group from the Dzungarian Basin, also called the Junggar Basin. Those 13 individuals descended from a combination of local populations and Western steppe herders linked to a different group, the Yamnaya.

Chao Ning, study author and an archaeologist at Peking University, said in the same release: “These findings add to our understanding of the eastward dispersal of Yamnaya ancestry and the scenarios under which admixture occurred when they first met the populations of Inner Asia.”

Looking at the mummies’ teeth revealed milk proteins, indicating that the population may have been pastoral dairy farmers. But they used millet from East Asia and medicinal plants from Central Asia, indicating that though there was not a mix of genes, there certainly was a sharing of goods across cultures.

Excavation of burial M75 at the Xiaohe cemetery.

“At present, we are unable to determine when precisely the Xiaohe groups acquired their distinctive cultural elements,” said Christina Warinner, co-author of the paper and an anthropologist at Harvard University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “It appears that they had already learned to farm, herd, and dairy before moving into the Tarim Basin, because we found that the founding population was already consuming dairy products. It is unknown where they lived before moving into the Tarim Basin, but their genetic profile and those of their admixed neighbors suggests that they were local to the general region.”

Though the Tarim Basin individuals were not genetically diverse, they were “culturally cosmopolitan,” Warinner said in an email to Gizmodo. They had fantastically woven clothing, beads and other decorative wares, and a diversity of foodstuffs.

“Our findings about the Tarim mummies have raised numerous questions about the nature of Bronze Age population contact, trade, and interaction,” Warinner said. “We don’t have the answers yet, but we hope that continued archaeological research on the Xiaohe archaeological culture will begin to shed light on these topics.”

Some of the individuals look as if they died recently, with hair still on their heads, dyed clothing, and cashmere hats. And yet, it’s their genetic codes, invisible to the eye, that are revealing so much more about who these people were.

More: Analysis of ancient Egyptian mummies reveals unusual mud rituals

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