Journal of Human Genetics

, Volume 52, Issue 7, pp 584–591 | Cite as

Testing the hypothesis of an ancient Roman soldier origin of the Liqian people in northwest China: a Y-chromosome perspective

  • Ruixia Zhou
  • Lizhe An
  • Xunling Wang
  • Wei Shao
  • Gonghua Lin
  • Weiping Yu
  • Lin Yi
  • Shijian Xu
  • Jiujin Xu
  • Xiaodong XieEmail author
Original Article


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.


Y chromosome SNP STR Liqian Roman 



We express our appreciation to the original DNA donors who made this study possible. We thank Maria-Catira Bortolini for statistical assistance. This work was supported by grant of National Natural Science Foundation of China (30571014), a grant of platform of the Genetic Resources of Chinese Populations Project from the Ministry of Science and Technology of P.R. China (2003DEA3N026) and the Program for New Century Excellent Talents in the University from the Ministry of Education of P.R. China (NCET-05-0885).


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Copyright information

© The Japan Society of Human Genetics and Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruixia Zhou
    • 1
  • Lizhe An
    • 1
  • Xunling Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wei Shao
    • 1
  • Gonghua Lin
    • 1
  • Weiping Yu
    • 1
  • Lin Yi
    • 1
  • Shijian Xu
    • 1
  • Jiujin Xu
    • 3
  • Xiaodong Xie
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Life ScienceLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.School of History and CultureLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Institute of GeneticsChinese Academy of ScienceBeijingChina
  4. 4.School of Basic Medical SciencesLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina

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