DNA studies on Bronze Age Tarim mummies found in China’s Xinjiang region revealed recently that not only were these people not descendants of Indo-Europeans that immigrated to the area — they may in fact be the ancestors of Native Americans.
With genes that are shared between them, people living in Siberia, and Native Americans, the “Tarim mummies” have now been proven to be clearly related to these groups, according to a study that was published in the journal Nature.
While scientists originally thought that they may have come overland from the West, the DNA sequencing showed that they actually had origins near where they were found, in the deserts of western China. Tarim Mummies are link to Native Americans
Buried in boat-like wooden coffins, with their graves at the Xiaohe cemetery marked by upright wooden stakes that resemble oars, the mummies were part of a unique culture. Their Bronze Age culture was not part of a remote branch of early Indo-Europeans, according to the research, as reported this week in Live Science.
The new DNA research belies the nearly-century long theories regarding the origins of the prehistoric people who lived in the Tarim Basin. As recently as the year 2000,historians stated that there may have been at least two Caucasian groups into the Tarim Basin in the distant past. They associated these peoples with the Tocharian and Iranian (Saka) branches of the Indo-European language family, respectively.
Many archaeologists believed that the mummified remains belonged to the descendants of Indo-Europeans who had migrated to the region sometime before the year 2000 B.C. However, now researchers know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these people, whose mummies were uncovered in the early twentieth century, were a genetically isolated group who apparently were not related to any nearby populations. Tarim population lived along oasis-like rivers fed by mountain streams
Study co-author Christina Warinner, an anthropologist who teaches at Harvard and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, states in an interview with Live Science, “They’ve been so enigmatic. Ever since they were found almost by accident, they have raised so many questions, because so many aspects of them are either unique, puzzling or contradictory.”
As so often happens with hard science, the news upends all of what was previously almost taken for granted about the subject.
“It turns out, some of the leading ideas were incorrect, and so now we’ve got to start looking in a completely different direction,” Warriner admitted.
Although the graves were found by a hunter in an area that is now sandy and arid, it was once verdant, perched along the banks of a river, four thousand years ago.Their wooden coffins were covered with cowhide, entombing the remains of the people for millennia after the climate changed to become much more arid.
Once with a total of over 300 people, a number of the Bronze Age cemetery’s tombs had already been looted by grave robbers before it was discovered in the early 1900s.