自然杂志:塔里木小河墓群13具木乃伊DNA分析显示他们不是外来移民

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DNA reveals surprise ancestry of mysterious Chinese mummies​

The genomes of 13 remarkably preserved 4,000-year-old mummies from the Tarim Basin suggest they weren’t migrants who brought technology from the west, as previously supposed.
Aerial view of the Xiaohe cemetery surrounded by desert

Cemeteries in the Taklaman Desert, China, hold human remains up to 4,000 years old.Credit: Wenying Li, Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

Since their discovery a century ago, hundreds of naturally preserved mummies found in China’s Tarim Basin have been a mystery to archaeologists. Some thought the Bronze Age remains were from migrants from thousands of kilometres to the west, who had brought farming practices to the area. But now, a genomic analysis suggests they were indigenous people who may have adopted agricultural methods from neighbouring groups.

As they report today in Nature1, researchers have traced the ancestry of these early Chinese farmers to Stone Age hunter-gatherers who lived in Asia some 9,000 years ago. They seem to have been genetically isolated, but despite this had learnt to raise livestock and grow grains in the same way as other groups.

The study hints at “the really diverse ways in which populations move and don’t move, and how ideas can spread with, but also through, populations”, says co-author Christina Warinner, a molecular archaeologist at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts.

The finding demonstrates that cultural exchange doesn’t always go hand in hand with genetic ties, says Michael Frachetti, an archaeologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. “Just because those people are trading, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are marrying one another or having children,” he says.

Perfect preservation environment​

Starting in the early twentieth century, the mummies were found in cemeteries belonging to the so-called Xiaohe culture, which are scattered across the Taklamakan Desert in the Xinjiang region of China. The desert “is one of the most hostile places on Earth”, says Alison Betts, an archaeologist at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Here, bodies had been buried in boat-shaped coffins wrapped in cattle hide. The hot, arid and salty environment of the desert naturally preserved them, keeping everything from hair to clothing perfectly intact. Before the latest study, “we knew an awful lot about these people, physically, but we knew nothing about who they were and why they were there”, says Betts.

The mummies — which were buried over a period of 2,000 years or more — date to a significant time in Xinjiang’s history, when ancient communities were shifting from hunter-gatherers to farmers, she adds.

The remains of a naturally mummified woman with hair, wearing a white hat with a feather in it.

The harsh desert conditions preserved the bodies as natural mummies.Credit: Wenying Li, Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

Some of the later mummies were buried with woollen fabrics and clothing similar to those of cultures found to the west. The graves also contained millet, wheat, animal bones and dairy products — evidence of agricultural and pastoral technologies characteristic of cultures in other regions of Eurasia, which led researchers to hypothesize that these people were originally migrants from the west, who had passed through Siberia, Afghanistan or Central Asia.

The researchers behind the latest study — based in China, South Korea, Germany and the United States — took DNA from the mummies to test these ideas, but found no evidence to support them.

They sequenced the genomes of 13 individuals who lived between 4,100 and 3,700 years ago and whose bodies were found in the lowest layers of the Tarim Basin cemeteries in southern Xinjiang, as well as another 5 mummies from hundreds of kilometres away in northern Xinjiang, who lived between 5,000 and 4,800 years ago.

They then compared the genetic profiles of these people with previously sequenced genomes from more than 100 ancient groups of people, and those of more than 200 modern populations, from around the world.

Two groups of people​

They found that the northern Xinjiang individuals shared some parts of their genomes with Bronze Age migrants from the Altai Mountains of Central Asia who lived about 5,000 years ago — supporting an earlier hypothesis.

But the 13 people from the Tarim Basin did not share this ancestry. They seem to be solely related to hunter-gatherers who lived in southern Siberia and what is now northern Kazakhstan some 9,000 years ago, says co-author Choongwon Jeong, a population and evolutionary geneticist at Seoul National University. The northern Xinjiang individuals also shared some of this ancestry.

Evidence of dairy products was found alongside the youngest mummies from the upper layers of cemeteries in the Tarim Basin, so the researchers analysed calcified dental plaque on the teeth of some of the older mummies to see how far back dairy farming went. In the plaque, they found milk proteins from cattle, sheep and goats, suggesting that even the earliest settlers here consumed dairy products. “This founding population had already incorporated dairy pastoralism into their way of life,” says Warinner.

But the study raises many more questions about how the people of the Xiaohe culture got these technologies, from where and from whom, says Betts. “That’s the next thing we need to try and resolve.”

 

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3500年乾屍「小河公主」 身份曝⋯外表人生勝利組:亞麻色髮+白皙大眼​

2 姿函
2021年10月28日 週四 上午9:50·2 分鐘 (閱讀時間)

記者余姿函/綜合報導

新疆塔里木日前發現一具3500年前的乾屍「小河公主」。這具乾屍的身份一直深受外界關注,27日國際學術期刊《自然》(Nature)網站刊登了中、德、美、韓四個國家的研究發現,這個小河公主可能是西方的歐洲美女。

綜合外媒報導,小河公主是在1934年的5月在小河墓地所挖掘。不同於亞洲一般的墓地,小河墓地每一個墓上頭都立著一根木。據了解,這些墓的棺材都被牛皮所包裹著,有的還有牛頭隨葬。撥開牛皮後,就能看到一塊一塊的小蓋板,拿掉小蓋板後,屍體也就暴露了出來。

其中有一座墓在當時保存的特別堅韌,墓主過世的時候還帶著一抹微笑,也就是大家所熟悉的「小河公主」。小河公主2019年到北京展出時被報導,雖然她的身高只有152公分,但皮膚白皙、鼻子高挺,頭髮還是亞麻色的,看起來不太像一般的亞洲人,很有可能是來自西方的歐洲美女。

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經過團隊研究了18具乾屍的基因,其中13具來自小河文化、5具來自新疆準噶爾盆地。他們透過基因組分析發現,塔里木盆地所發現的青銅時代乾屍並不是外來者,他們可能曾經廣泛分布,只是在上個冰河世紀末期全消失了。

而這個群體就被稱為「古代北歐亞混血人」(ANE),他們在當今人口的基因組中只有小部分,西伯利亞和美洲的土著人口擁有著約40%的比例。

報導也指出,這個發現打破了過去種種的假設,例如小河公主為現今西伯利亞、阿富汗北部或中亞山區遷徙而來的後代。

 
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