DNA extractions seek traces of ethnic fusion in ancient China

Archaeologists in central China’s Henan Province have invited paleogeneticists to extract DNA samples from the remains of a tomb dating back some 2,600 years to find traces of ethnic fusion.

The tomb, built in the late Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and located in the Xuyang Cemetery in the city of Luoyang, is thought to be the gravestone of a noble or royal of the Luhun Rong people, an ethnic group that immigrated from the northwest and inhabited central China during the period.

The team of Fu Qiaomei, from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was invited for the sampling, according to the Luoyang Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.

The team has extracted multiple DNA samples from the skulls and teeth of the five skeletons in the tomb, and also from specimens unearthed from another two tombs for comparative studies.

Analysis and evaluation of the samples is expected to take two to three months.

Through the study, the team hopes to find more traces of ethnic fusion, such as whether the Luhun Rong people and the locals in central China were related by marriage, and whether the people buried in the tomb were of mixed blood, said Fu.

“The tomb provides more content to crack the genetic code of ethnic fusion. We look forward to achieving further breakthroughs with our follow-up research,” she said.

Located in Luoyang’s Yichuan County, the Xuyang Cemetery is a tomb cluster belonging to ancient Rong migrants. It is the first discovery of Rong remains in the central plains.

Excavation work at the cemetery started in 2013, with 150 tombs dug up so far, including 12 large and medium-sized specimens. Archaeological excavation of the cemetery is underway.

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