Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evidence that a West-East admixed population lived in the Tarim Basin as early as the early Bronze Age

Chunxiang Li12, Hongjie Li2, Yinqiu Cui12, Chengzhi Xie2, Dawei Cai1, Wenying Li3, Victor H Mair4, Zhi Xu5, Quanchao Zhang1, Idelisi Abuduresule3, Li Jin4, Hong Zhu1 and Hui Zhou12*

Author affiliations

1 Ancient DNA Laboratory, Research Center for Chinese Frontier Archaeology, Jilin University, Changchun 130012, PR China

2 College of Life Science, Jilin University, Changchun 130023, PR China

3 Xinjiang Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute, Ürümchi 830000, PR China

4 Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA

5 Key Laboratory of Genetic Engineering and Center for Anthropological Studies, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, PR China

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Citation and License

BMC Biology 2010, 8:15  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-8-15

Published: 17 February 2010



The Tarim Basin, located on the ancient Silk Road, played a very important role in the history of human migration and cultural communications between the West and the East. However, both the exact period at which the relevant events occurred and the origins of the people in the area remain very obscure. In this paper, we present data from the analyses of both Y chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) derived from human remains excavated from the Xiaohe cemetery, the oldest archeological site with human remains discovered in the Tarim Basin thus far.


Mitochondrial DNA analysis showed that the Xiaohe people carried both the East Eurasian haplogroup (C) and the West Eurasian haplogroups (H and K), whereas Y chromosomal DNA analysis revealed only the West Eurasian haplogroup R1a1a in the male individuals.


Our results demonstrated that the Xiaohe people were an admixture from populations originating from both the West and the East, implying that the Tarim Basin had been occupied by an admixed population since the early Bronze Age. To our knowledge, this is the earliest genetic evidence of an admixed population settled in the Tarim Basin.