Ancient Mongolian Tomb Holds Skeleton of Western Man
Consider an older gentleman whose skeleton lay in one of more than 200 tombs recently excavated at a 2,000-year-old cemetery in eastern Mongolia, near China's northern border. DNA extracted from this man's bones pegs him as a descendant of Europeans or western Asians. Yet he still assumed a prominent position in ancient Mongolia's Xiongnu Empire, say geneticist Kyung-Yong Kim of Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea, and his colleagues.
On the basis of previous excavations and descriptions in ancient Chinese texts, researchers suspect that the Xiongnu Empire -- which ruled a vast territory in and around Mongolia from 209 B.C. to A.D. 93 -- included ethnically and linguistically diverse nomadic tribes. The Xiongnu Empire once ruled the major trading route known as the Asian Silk Road, opening it to both Western and Chinese influences.
Researchers have yet to pin down the language spoken by Xiongnu rulers and political elites, says archaeologist David Anthony of Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. But the new genetic evidence shows that the 2,000-year-old man "was multi-ethnic, like the Xiongnu polity itself," Anthony remarks.
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