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Uyghur boy from Kashgar Every few years a story crops up about “European-looking” people in northwest China who claim to be of Roman origin. I’ll admit that I found the stories interesting, amusing, if implausible, years ago. This is almost like the “vanishing blonde” meme which always pops right back up.

First, let’s quote from For years the residents of the remote north western Chinese village of Liqian have believed they were special.

In the year 110 BC the Roman army was composed of propertied peasants.

These were men of moderate means, but means nonetheless.

Many of the villagers have Western characteristics including green eyes and blonde hair leading some experts to suggest that they may be the descendants of a lost Roman legion that settled in the area.

Now DNA testing of the villagers has shown that almost two thirds of them are of Caucasian origin.

Clearly substantial numbers of “barbarians” were assimilated into a Han identity on the northern frontier.

They imposed their language on the older residents, but genetically assimilated them. In the papers published on the Uyghurs they shake out as about a 50/50 West/East Eurasian mix.

But the DODECAD ANCESTRY PROJECT has them in the sample, and here’s how they break down by a finer grain: Uyghurs are the third population from the bottom. The Yakut are the northernmost Turkic people, and the Turkic element which settled in Xinjiang and assimilated the Tocharians was from the north.

But many of these populations absorbed the Indo-European groups, and came out genetically admixed.

A clear residual of West Eurasian admixture can also be found among peoples who presumably never interacted much with Indo-Europeans, such as the Mongols, though at lower levels.

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