Cai Junnian has green eyes
Newspaper reports are sketchy. They never mention the specifics of the testing or identify the alleged results, and they do not offer a mention of the names of the scientists doing the testing or refer to any papers. They just tell the story.
Genetic testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a “lost legion” of Roman soldiers.
Tests found that the DNA of some villagers in Liqian, on the fringes of the Gobi Desert in north-western China, was 56 per cent Caucasian in origin. Many of the villagers have blue or green eyes, long noses and even fair hair, prompting speculation that they have European blood.
A local man, Cai Junnian, is nicknamed Cai Luoma, or “Cai the Roman”, and is one of many villagers convinced that he is descended from the lost legion.
Chinese and Italian anthropologists this week established an Italian studies center at a leading university in northwest China to determine whether some Western-looking Chinese in the area are the descendants of a lost Roman army of ancient times.
Experts at the Italian Studies Center at Lanzhou University in Gansu Province will conduct excavations on a section of the Silk Road, a 7,000-km-long trade route that linked Asia and Europe more than 2,000 years ago, to see if it can be proved a legion of lost Roman soldiers settled in China, said Prof. Yuan Honggeng, head of the center.
“We hope to prove the legend by digging and discovering more evidence of China’s early contact with the Roman Empire,” said Yuan.
Before Marco Polo’s travels to China in the 13th century, the only known contact between the two empires was a visit by Roman diplomats in 166 A.D.
Chinese archeologists were therefore surprised in the 1990s to find the remains of an ancient fortification in Liqian, a remote town in Yongchang County on the edge of the Gobi desert, which was strikingly similar to Roman defence structures.
They were even more astonished to find western-looking people with green, deep-set eyes, long and hooked noses and blonde hair in the area.
Though the villagers said they had never traveled outside the county, they worshipped bulls and their favorite game was similar to the ancient Romans’ bull-fighting dance.
DNA tests in 2005 confirmed some of the villagers were indeed of foreign origin, leading many experts to conclude they are the descendants of the ancient Roman army headed by general Marcus Crassus.
In 53 B.C., Crassus was defeated and beheaded by the Parthians, a tribe occupying what is now Iran, putting an end to Rome’s eastward expansion.
But a 6,000-strong army led by Crassus’s eldest son apparently escaped and were never found again.
And here we see why. The science actually debunked the legend, but the press published the legend and misreported the DNA test results.
An article in the Journal of Human Genetics 52 (7): 584–91, titled: Testing the hypothesis of an ancient Roman soldier origin of the Liqian people in northwest China: a Y-chromosome perspective. seems to explain that DNA testing proved the exact opposite of the accounts in the newspapers.
The Liqian people in north China are well known because of the controversial hypothesis of an ancient Roman mercenary origin. To test this hypothesis, 227 male individuals representing four Chinese populations were analyzed at 12 short tandem repeat (STR) loci and 12 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP). At the haplogroup levels, 77% Liqian Y chromosomes were restricted to East Asia. Principal component (PC) and multidimensional scaling (MDS) analysis suggests that the Liqians are closely related to Chinese populations, especially Han Chinese populations, whereas they greatly deviate from Central Asian and Western Eurasian populations. Further phylogenetic and admixture analysis confirmed that the Han Chinese contributed greatly to the Liqian gene pool. The Liqian and the Yugur people, regarded as kindred populations with common origins, present an underlying genetic difference in a median-joining network. Overall, a Roman mercenary origin could not be accepted as true according to paternal genetic variation, and the current Liqian population is more likely to be a subgroup of the Chinese majority Han.
This example illustrates why it is inadvisable to base one’s views on Anthropogenic Global Warming or the existence of Bigfoot on newspaper accounts.