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East Meets West: Two Stories, Two Millennia Ago

February 4, 2010

Excavations an ancient cemetery in Mongolia uncovered a man's skull yielding genetic evidence of Indo-Europeans reaching eastern Asia at least 2,000 years ago.

Late last week, Science News reported that the remains of an Indo-European man were found in a 2,000-year-old Mongolian cemetery.

This long-dead individual possessed a set of genetic mutations on his Y chromosome, which is inherited from paternal ancestors, that commonly appears today among male speakers of Indo-European languages in eastern Europe, central Asia and northern India .

Today, Scientific American reports the discovery of the body of an Asian man, buried on an Italian estate in Puglia about 2,000 years ago – his ethnic identity also determined by analysis of mitochondrial DNA. Neither report can determine whether each man had traveled on his own, or was the descendant of an emigrant family, but the two reports together are an astonishing confirmation of travel, communication and cultural exchange between Roman Europe and East Asia in the ancient world.

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