The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)

Genetic Variation between the Population of the Ancient Xiongnu and Modern Populations in Central Mongolia


1Anthropology and Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2Anthropology and Archaeology, National University of Mongolia, 3Anthropology, Indiana University, Bloomington

April 16, 2016 9:45, A 602 Add to calendar

The first hypervariable region from ancient mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from 48 individuals from Xiongnu (3rd century BCE – 2nd century CE) burials in central Mongolia has been sequenced showing a significant proportion of "western" mtDNA haplotypes. This suggests that the Xiongnu, the polity based in Mongolia which was the primary adversaries of Han Dynasty China, were predominantly “Europoid” in appearance. The mtDNA gene pool from this site is not consistent with the Xiongnu from the Egiin Gol site, the only population of the Xiongnu that has been sequenced, supporting a hypothesis that the Xiongnu may have been a confederation of unrelated smaller local political units. Also, the large proportion of “western” haplotypes found in this population suggest closer genetic and cultural affinity with western populations, which include the Pazyryk Scythian culture and the Deer-Stone-Khirigsuur (DSK) culture complex, as opposed to northeastern Asians, such as the populations of the Mongolic, Tungusic or other Paleo-Siberian peoples. The significant amount of western mtDNA in this region supports an East-West genetic border much father to the east than a generally accepted Altai Mountains hypothesis. The data from this study also suggest that a significant gene pool displacement occurred between the periods of the Xiongnu and Mongol Empires, which implies that after the last glacial maximum Eurasia east to Mongolia was initially settled from southwestern Eurasia and not East Asia.

Research for this study has been partially funded by the American Center for Mongolian Studies and through the Anthropology Skomp fund at the Indiana University, Bloomington.