Mitochondrial DNA analysis of human remains from the Yuansha site in Xinjiang, China


The Yuansha site is located in the center of the Taklimakan Desert of Xinjiang, in the southern Silk Road region. MtDNA was extracted from fifteen human remains excavated from the Yuansha site, dating back 2,000–2,500 years. Analysis of the phylogenetic tree and the multidimensional scaling (MDS) reveals that the Yuansha population has relatively close relationships with the modern populations of South Central Asia and Indus Valley, as well as with the ancient population of Chawuhu.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1

    Han K X. Anthropological research of ancient populations in Xinjiang and physical characteristics of Uigur. West Region Res, 1991, 2: 1–13

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Comas D, Calafell F, Mateu E, et al. Trading genes along the silk road: mtDNA sequences and the origin of Central Asian populations. Am J Hum Genet, 1998, 63: 1824–1838

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Comas D, Plaza S, Wells R S, et al. Admixture, migrations, and dispersals in Central Asia: Evidence from maternal DNA lineages. Eur J Hum Genet, 2004, 1–10

  4. 4

    Calafell F, Comas D, Pe’rez-Lezaun A, et al. Genetics and population history of Central Asia. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2000

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Francalacci P. DNA analysis of ancient desiccated corpses from Xinjiang. J Indoeur Stud, 1995, 23: 385–389

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Francalacci P. DNA analysis on ancient desiccated corpses from Xinjiang (China): Further results. Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of Man, 1998

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Lalueza-Fox C, Sampietro M L, Gilbert M T P, et al. Unravelling migrations in the steppe: mitochondrial DNA sequences from ancient Central Asians. Proc R Soc Lond B, 2004, 271: 941–947

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Mallory J P, Mair V H. The Tarim mummies. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Li S. The interaction between Northwest China and Central Asia during the second millennium B.C.: An archaeological perspective. In: Boyle K, Renfrew C, Levine M, eds. Ancient Interactions: East and West in Eurasia. Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2002. 171–182

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Barber E W. The mummies of Ürümchi. New York: Norton, 1999

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Lin M C. Origin and migration of Tocharian. West Region Res, 2003, 3: 9–23

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Han K X. The physical anthropology of the ancient populations of the Tarim Basin and surrounding areas. In: Mair V H, eds. The Bronze Age and early Iron Age peoples of eastern Central Asia. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Museum Publications, 1998. 558–570

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Yao Y G, Kong Q P, Wang C Y, et al. Different matrilineal contributions to genetic structure of ethnic groups in the silk road region in China. Mol Biol Evol, 2004, 21: 2265–2280

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    O’Rourke D H, Hayes M G, Carlyle S W. Ancient DNA studies in physical anthropology. Ann Rev Anthropol, 2000, 29: 217–242

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Higgins D, Sharp G. CLUSTAL: A package for performing multiple sequence alignment on a microcomputer. Gene, 1988, 73: 237–244

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Saitou N, Nei M. The neighbor-joining method: A new method for reconstructing phylogenetic trees. Mol Biol Evol, 1987, 4: 406–425

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Andrews R M, Kubacka I, Chinnery P F, et al. Reanalysis and revision of the Cambridge reference sequence for human mitochondrial DNA. Nat Genet, 1999, 23: 147

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Finnilä S, Lehtonen M S, Majamaa K. Phylogenetic network for European mtDNA. Am J Hum Genet, 2001, 68: 1475–1484

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Yao Y G, Kong Q P, Bandelt H J, et al. Phylogeographic differentiation of mitochondrial DNA in Han Chinese. Am J Hum Genet, 2002, 70: 635–651

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Horai S, Murayama K, Hayasaka K, et al. MtDNA polymorphism in East Asian populations, with special reference to the peopling of Japan. Am J Hum Genet, 1996, 59: 579–590

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Yao Y G, Nie L, Harpending H, et al. Genetic relationship of Chinese ethnic populations revealed by mtDNA sequence diversity. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2002, 118: 63–76

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Tajima A, Hayami M, Tokunaga K, et al. Genetic origins of the Ainu inferred from combined DNA analyses of maternal and paternal lineages. J Hum Genet, 2004, 49: 187–193

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Kolman C J, Sambughin N, Bermingham E. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of Mongolian populations and implications for the origin of New World founders. Genetics, 1996, 142: 1321–1334

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Yao Y G, Lv X M, Luo H R, et al. Gene admixture in the Silk Road region of China-evidence from mtDNA and melanocortin I receptor polymorphism. Genes Genet Syst, 2000, 75: 173–178

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Quintana-Murci L, Chaix R, Wells R S, et al. Where West Meets East: The complex mtDNA landscape of the Southwest and Central Asian Corridor. Am J Hum Genet, 2004, 74: 827–845

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Kivisild T, Rootsi S, Metspalu M, et al. The genetic heritage of the earliest settlers persists both in Indian tribal and caste populations. Am J Hum Genet, 2003, 72: 313–332

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Comas D, Calafell F, Mateu E, et al. Geographic variation in human mitochondrial DNA control region sequence: The population history of Turkey and its relationship to the European populations. Mol Biol Evol, 1996, 13: 1067–1077

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Pult I, Sajantila A, Simanainen J, et al. Mitochondrial DNA sequences from Switzerland reveal striking homogeneity of European populations. Biol Chem Hoppe Sayler, 1994, 375: 837–840

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Di Rienzo A, Wilson A C. Branching pattern in the evolutionary tree for human mitochondrial DNA. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 1991, 88: 1597–1601

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Piercy R, Sullivan K M, Benson N, et al. The application of mitochondrial DNA typing to the study of white Caucasian genetic identification. Int J Legal Med, 1993, 106: 85–90

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Wang C, Cui Y Q, Duan R H, et al. The ressearch of the Neolithic bones from the Jiangjialiang site, Yangyuan, Hebei Province. Archaeology, 2001, 654: 74–81

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32

    Christine K T, Eric C, Bertrand L. Nuclear and Mitochondrial DNA Analysis of a 2000-year-old Necropolis in the Egyin Gol Valley of Mongolia. Am J Hum Genet, 2003, 73: 247–260

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Cui Y Q, Duan R H, Zhou H, et al. Analysis of genetical structure of ancient Xinjiang population. Chem J Chin U, 2002, 23: 2270–2280

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34

    Cui Y Q, Duan R H, Zhou H, et al. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA from the ancient tombs of Turfan. Chem Res Chin U, 2002, 18: 419–423

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  35. 35

    Xie C Z, Liu S B, Cui Y Q, et al. Analysis of mitochondral DNA from the ancient tombs of Chawuhu. J Jilin Univ (science edition), 2005, 43: 538–540

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  36. 36

    Hemphill B E and Mallory J P. Horse-mounted invaders from the Russo-Kazakh steppe or agricultural colonists from western central Asia? A craniometric investigation of the Bronze Age settlement of Xinjiang. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2004, 124: 199–222

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hui Zhou.

Additional information

Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. J0530184) and the “985” Foundation of Jilin University

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Gao, S., Cui, Y., Yang, Y. et al. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of human remains from the Yuansha site in Xinjiang, China. Sci. China Ser. C-Life Sci. 51, 205–213 (2008).

Download citation


  • Yuansha site
  • ancient DNA
  • mtDNA
  • Xinjiang
  • Central Asia