Located in northwestern Chinas Xinjiang region, the Tarim Basin is a rich confluence of geology, history, and culture. In fact, it is speculated that this region may be one of the last to be inhabited in Asia. The region acquired international renown in the 1990s when hundreds of naturally mummified remains were discovered. Dating back to between 2,000 BC and 200 AD, these Tarim Basin mummies had a seemingly Western appearance. In order to solve this mystery and understand the origins of these first settlers in the basin, experts used genome sequencing. Their results have now been published in the journal Nature.
The multinational team of Chinese, European, and American researchers analyzed the DNA of 13 of the earliest Tarim Basin mummies, in the hope of decoding the mystery of their allegedly Western appearance. What further confused this appearance was that they were wrapped in felted and woven clothing, with cheese, wheat, and millet found in their graves. This suggested that they could even have been long-distance Bronze Age Yamnaya herders from the West Asian steppes near the Black Sea region of southern Russia, or farmers migrating from the deserts of Central Asia, who had strong ties to early farmers from the Iranian Plateau, reports CNN.
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