Archaeology / Cultural Heritage / History

[Archaeology] [twocolumns]

Anthropology / Human Evolution / Linguistics

[Anthropology] [twocolumns]

Palaeontology / Palaeoclimate / Earth Sciences

[Palaeontology] [twocolumns]

Evolution / Genetics / Biology


The Tarim Mummies: Europeans in ancient China?

A century ago, European explorers reported finding mummies with European features in Central Asia’s Tarim Basin. The mummies dated back up to 4000 years. During the classical period, several references to Europeans living in the region appear. In all likelihood, Europeans migrated eastward and formed settlements in the region. 

The Tarim Mummies display European features. The Central Asian climate led to well-preserved bodies [Credit: Web]
There is some evidence indicating that European language existed in the Tarim region at least in the first millennium B.C. The Chinese reported an adjacent group that had full beards and European facial features. These people spoke a language in the European family. Although not directly related to the Tarim mummies, it is likely this second people represent a splinter group. 

The mummies are taller than Asians of the period. Some have red hair while others are blonde. Many have “Caucasian” features such as recessed eyes. Their clothing indicates a European origin. 

Archaeological evidence may support the case for European immigration into Tarim. The older mummies wear European style clothing. Prior to 2000 B.C., there is little-to-no evidence for metal usage in China. Around 2000 B.C., bronze artifacts begin appearing in the archaeological record. It seems likely the Europeans brought metal working technology to China and some of the artisans settled in the region. A couple of millennia later, the Chinese investigated the peoples in the Tarim basin. Reports indicated people of Greek or Parthian descent. Since the basin supplied China with jade, the government had an interest in the region’s people. 

The Chinese were not the only ones to note Caucasians living in Central Asia. In the first century A.D., the Roman Emperor Claudius received similar reports. According to his sources, these people had “flaxen hair” and “blue eyes.” They were also unusually tall for Asians. Although not conclusive, the reports came from the Tarim vicinity. 

Modern science investigated the mummies using more than historical and archaeological records. DNA testing demonstrated the mummies shared a mixed ancestry. However, some claim that the earliest inhabitants were exclusively European in origin. Other peoples moved into the area afterward and interbreeding ensued. Politically, the assertion is dangerous for China as some groups seek to separate and ethnic differences would provide justification for secession. 

The Tarim mummies definitely have European genes. However, most also contain other genetic material. It appears the Europeans arrived 4000 years ago and settled. Other groups later joined the community and interbred. The archaeological and historical record also points to Caucasians in the region. The conclusion provides ammunition for Central Asian separatists looking to escape the Chinese yolk.? 

Author: Don Keko | Source: Examiner [November 26, 2011]

Post A Comment
  • Blogger Comment using Blogger
  • Facebook Comment using Facebook
  • Disqus Comment using Disqus


  1. Evidence of east asian people in the west have been found at Pompeii and Herculaneum. Skeletons of east asian origins have been found at these sites. It looks like immigration went both ways in the ancient past.

  2. Tarim mummies discovered a few years ago at the foothills of the Tian Shan Mountains in Xinjiang, China could be as old as 5000 years.Wang Binghua was the first among all to discover the first Tarim mummy near Tian Shan.there are many mummies discovered from four different locations of China.For more details refer


Exhibitions / Travel

[Exhibitions] [bsummary]

Natural Heritage / Environment / Wildlife

[Natural Heritage] [list]

Astronomy / Astrobiology / Space Exploration

[Universe] [list]