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DNA to Test Theory of Roman Village in China

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the now-that-is-lost dept.

Biotech 203

Reverse Gear writes "Many of the inhabitants of a lonely village in north western China seems to have distinctive western features. An old theory from the 50s suggests that a Roman legion lost in what is now Iran in the year 53BC lost their commanding officer. They traveled east, so the legend goes, working as mercenaries until they were caught by the Chinese 17 years later. The Chinese described them as using a 'fish-scale formation', which could be a reference to the well-known Roman phalanx technique called the 'tortoise'. The remainder of the legion, it is suggested, may have intermarried with the villagers in Liqian. Scientists are now trying to verify the fascinating theory by testing the DNA of the inhabitants of the Chinese village."

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First they conquered Europe... (1, Interesting)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17887852)

... then they got lost in China!

suspicious?? (5, Funny)

markxsd (718350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888018)

From TFA...

Gu Jianming, who lives near Liqian, said he was surprised to be told he might be descended from a European imperial army. But the birth of his daughter was also a surprise. Gu Meina, now six, was born with a shock of blonde hair.

If my wife gave birth to a half Chinese baby and told me that it was descended from an ancient lost tribe of Chinese settlers, I might be somewhat suspicious. Gu Jianming, wake up man, she cheated on you... My guess it is with the blond guy you saw in the village about 9 months ago!

Re:suspicious?? (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888142)

Yeah man! She was HOT!!!!

Re:suspicious?? (5, Funny)

Bob54321 (911744) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888222)

Gu Meina, now six, was born with a shock of blonde hair.

My guess it is with the blond guy you saw in the village about 9 months ago!


Your math is shocking... either that or there has been some technological advances not reported on Slashdot.

Re:suspicious?? (1)

strider44 (650833) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888424)

Well, the doctor takes many forms.

Re:suspicious?? (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888858)

Do any of the sheep look like Captain Jack?

Re:suspicious?? (4, Funny)

Ankou (261125) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888912)

You know it would save a lot of money and time if we settled this on the Maury Povich show. "Marcus Aurelius, you ARE the father!" Man that back child support fo that many years will be a BITCH!

Re:First they conquered Europe... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17888340)

Read more here, including a picture. [gnxp.com]

Anybody familiar with history will know Europeans have long rambled across most of Asia. Even today there are fully European looking people in Afghanistan, and most Indians and all Persians and Pakistanis have some or even alot of European ancestry. Despite the name 'European' the 'Europeans' have always lived in parts of Asia.

Re:First they conquered Europe... (3, Interesting)

karolo (595531) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888702)

Actually, there are different theories, but one of them says, based on linguistic evidence, that it worked the other way around, that is, the Europeans came from the region that we nowadays know as Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. That would explain the close linguistic relation between most European languages and Persian and Hindi.

Too bad... (2)

DrYak (748999) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888832)

...they left their Real ID papers back there in Rome.
We wouldn't have to do all this DNA checking if they kept their Imperial ID cards with them...

Hmm... (0, Redundant)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 7 years ago | (#17887880)

When in Rome, do as the Romans...go to China?

Hmm could these have been the first Italians to eat noodles?

Or perhaps the first westerners to catch yellow fever?

Either way, I for one welcome our [ancient] lost Roman overlords.

Re:Hmm... (2, Funny)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888150)

Now here's a theory!
Supposing that the Romans introduced spaghetti to the Chinese!
Hmmmm......
And then Marco Polo brought it back?

Re:Hmm... (1)

zwarte piet (1023413) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888274)

Ok, but how about the sauce??

Where no one has gone before~ (1, Funny)

bronney (638318) | more than 7 years ago | (#17887902)

The village is now overlooked by a pillared portico, in the hope of attracting tourists.

God damn Romulans!!!!!!111!!!

Romans.. (1)

jovius (974690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17887908)

The great roman empire has set it's limb on China, it seems.

Not the first indication of Europeans in China.. (5, Interesting)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17887918)

Strikingly well preserved mummies from the Takla Makan desert region have strongly European characterstics such as red hair and blue eyes dating from as far back as 3800 BP. DNA analysis on these mummies indicates Indo/European origin. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/chinamum/taklamakan.h tml [pbs.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarim_mummies [wikipedia.org]

Re:Not the first indication of Europeans in China. (1, Informative)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17887920)

Strikingly well preserved mummies from the Takla Makan desert region have strongly European characterstics such as red hair and blue eyes dating from as far back as 3800 BP.

Yeah, but that proves little; Taklamakan is a Soft Place. Those guys could have wandered back from 6000 AD for all we know, stopping for a picnic with Fiddler's Green along the way.

Re:Not the first indication of Europeans in China. (2, Funny)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888144)

mummies from the Takla Makan desert region have strongly European characterstics such as red hair and blue eyes

Commenting on the discovery, Professor Cartman said "These people - the Gingers - were the chosen race but with their red hair, freckles, and pale skin they obviously could not stand the sun."

Re:Not the first indication of Europeans in China. (4, Interesting)

cbv (221379) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888152)

True. I remember watching a documentation on ancient Greek stories and myths about the Amazons (no, not the company).

While trying to hunt down the Amazons origins, they visited some nomads somewhere in China (or Mongolia, can't remember where exactly) and took DNA samples of a blonde 10 or 12 year old girl with distinct Caucasian features -- although her mother had none of these whatsoever.

Lo and behold, her DNA (and her mothers!) was identical to DNA samples taken from an Amazon mummy of something like a warrior-priestess found in what is nowadays Ukraine.

Meaning, the girl was a direct descendant of that woman who lived around 2,000 years ago.

Re:Not the first indication of Europeans in China. (5, Informative)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888668)

Not surprising.

The outer Mongolia is the region to which every single major Eurasian human migration can be traced. Before DNA techniques, language techniques and historical references have been used to trace these migrations.

Most of that has now been confirmed using DNA. There was a number of waves going as far back as the Dorian invasion which overthrew the bronze age greek civilisations and established what 500 years later became the golden age greece. This was followed by gotts, westgotts, barbarians, huns, bulgarians, etc. All of them displaced from outer mongolia a few centuries before they ended up in Europe.

The early waves were speaking indo-european languages and with distinct caucasian appearance. The last ones (huns and pra-bulgarians) were speaking languages from the Turk language group and were of mongoloid appearance.

So finding a blond or even a redhead in mongolia is not suprising. After all Chengis Khan was a redhead.

Re:Not the first indication of Europeans in China. (1)

Illserve (56215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889068)

Meaning, the girl was a direct descendant of that woman who lived around 2,000 years ago.

I'm confused by the emphasis on the word direct here. How could you be an indirect descendent of someone? Either you can trace a lineage path back to them or not.

It's surprising that prominent genetic features like hair colour could survive so many generations of interbreeding with non blondes but I guess if that person was promiscuous enough, they started a broad enough tree that chance allowed the blonde gene to survive.

Re:Not the first indication of Europeans in China. (1)

cbv (221379) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889246)

I'm confused by the emphasis on the word direct here. How could you be an indirect descendent of someone?

Of course. Maybe I should have put the emphasis on 'was' instead.

As far as I remember, the scientists were just looking for clues about the origins and where stunned when they realized that the girl was actually related to a 2,000 year old mummy they found (more or less) by accident.

Pasta (1)

seyyah (986027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17887922)

If proven, then the theory that Marco Polo brought spaghetti to Italy will finally have some competition. Were noodles, in fact, a Roman invention introduced to the Chinese? (Anyone having been to Xinjiang Province in western China will note the striking similarity between the wheat noodles there with Italian spaghetti).

Re:Pasta (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888022)

If proven, then the theory that Marco Polo brought spaghetti to Italy will finally have some competition. Were noodles, in fact, a Roman invention introduced to the Chinese?

The problem of ascribing pasta to the Romans is that this particular food is not described in the texts at all. We know more about Roman dining customs than about any other ancient people, with whole recepies reconstructed, see Patrick Fass' Around the Roman Table [amazon.com] (University of Chicago Press, 2005). And pasta is nowhere to be found.

Re:Pasta (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17888740)

If you read the other referenced book A Taste of Ancient Rome [amazon.com] - there is a mention of pasta in page 227 of the index.

Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens [amazon.com] also has a reference.

Fascinating menu - dolphin meatballs, roasted parrot, squid patties, jellyfish omelettes. I think I'll stick with the tuna steaks.

Re:Pasta (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888938)

But what could they do with pasta until the tomato was brought over from the Americas?

Re:Pasta (1)

3.5 stripes (578410) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888080)

Actually the idea of pasta in italy existed before marco polo, it's just certain types of pasta, like spaghetti which seem to have been influenced by the chinese.

Re:Pasta (5, Interesting)

Falkkin (97268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888288)

In addition to the fact that European spaghetti dates to 300 BC [wikipedia.org] , there's also controversy over whether Marco Polo ever went to China at all [museumofhoaxes.com] . Polo's famous book about his travels never mentioned any Chinese place names, the Chinese style of writing, chopsticks, or woodblock printing. The Chinese bureaucrats never recorded his presence, despite recording the presence of other Westerners who had been to China (Polo was not the first Westerner in China, but he was the first to write a book about it). Many modern scholars think that Polo perhaps ended up in the Middle East, and wrote the book about China based on third-hand knowledge he heard from Persians or Arabs there.

4,000 year old noodles. (2, Interesting)

Bayoudegradeable (1003768) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888420)

If proven, then the theory that Marco Polo brought spaghetti to Italy will finally have some competition. Were noodles, in fact, a Roman invention introduced to the Chinese?
Unless the Romans were making noodles 4,000 years ago [guardian.co.uk] , there's no chance they invented noodles. Seeing as 4,000 year-old Chinese noodles have been found, it's pretty clear who invented noodles.

Still fresh? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17888606)

What's the expiry date?

Re:4,000 year old noodles. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17889346)

And still people doubt the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

Re:4,000 year old noodles. (1)

elmedico27 (931070) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889420)

Only 4,000 years old?! I'm pretty sure I have some ramen noodles older than that in my kitchen cabinet.

Re:Pasta (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17889374)

dude, marco polo was about fifteen hundred years later than the romans (give or take a century)

How can they test? (1)

DMiax (915735) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888026)

AFAY DNA testing is made against 13 well identified DNA sequences with low rate of corruption. It is done on DNA from two individuals, to see if they can belong to the same genetic tree.

Given that at each generation each sequence has 50% probability to be passed on, in n generations the probability of having at least one original gene is 1-(1-2^-n)^13.

If I am not wrong, this gives 34% probability of having 1 gene left after 5 generations; in 10 generations it's about 1%.

I strongly laughed when a biologist friend told me this, just after seeing Da Vinci Code...

OTOH maybe we are not talking of the same test, the article doesn't explain.

Re:How can they test? (4, Informative)

Bob54321 (911744) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888090)

There are genetic markers that separate the Asian and European populations quite well - much study of the difference between these populations has been part of the HapMap [hapmap.org] project.

I haven't read the article... but I don't think they will use the standard 13 markers used for e.g. paternity testing. More likely to use the chips that contain more than 500000 markers to get a good coverage of the genome. Assuming only one Roman was in an individual's ancestry, after ten generations 0.5^10*500000 = 488 markers would be from the Roman. Only one needs to distinguish Asian/European ancestry for some sort of proof. It would still be difficult to make an definitive statement about Romans but give the good circumstantial evidence I don't think the burden of proof will be too high.

Re:How can they test? (3, Informative)

Bob54321 (911744) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888252)

Replying to my own message I know... but going away and thinking about this some more, they will probably try looking at the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is passed down intact in the male line so will give a very strong European signal if a Roman ancestor was a direct male only ancestor. I'm guessing the mitochondrial line which is passed down in the female line would be no good as not many Roman solders were female...

Re:How can they test? (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888342)

Plus, the worst case scenario assumed that generation intermarried with pure chinese DNA, and if they settled down in a community there might have been a relatively low rate of leakage... perhaps the differences even helped, the only children who could leave the village with no stigma were the "normal" ones... just a passing idea.

Re:How can they test? (1)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889418)

I was actually discussing the Roman/Chinese question with a genetic anthropologist over dinner the other night. She's tracking Irish population waves, and almost all the work is statistical against the markers. She also mentioned that they tend to have to find custom markers each time for different populations, and it's pretty easy after you've collected enough samples to identify which ones you're looking for. It's one of those things where you simply collect data until you know what you're looking for by examining already collected data. Nifty stuff... of course the hard part is sitting in the region and getting people to give you genetic samples. I forgot to ask her what exactly they collect for samples.

--
Evan

Re:How can they test? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17888098)

Mitochondrial DNA

Re:How can they test? (4, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888120)

Is only passed down from mother to daughter. while a male child will get it from his mother his child will get it from theirs.

A roman legion is most likely all male. while possible a few women a were present it is doubtful. especially after being lost for 17 years.

Re:How can they test? (4, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888202)

especially after being lost for 17 years.
They were not lost, just slightly unsure of where they were invading.

Re:How can they test? (4, Funny)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888410)

A roman legion is most likely all male. while possible a few women a were present it is doubtful. especially after being lost for 17 years.

Yeah, if a woman was along with all those lost men, she would have asked for directions!

Re:How can they test? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17888476)

+5 funny :-)

Kerguelen... (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889202)

Yeah, if a woman was along with all those lost men, she would have asked for directions!
Yup... and given what we know about the navigational skills of the human female they would have ended up settling in the Kerguelen Archipelago [wikipedia.org] instead of China.

Re:How can they test? (2, Informative)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888728)

The term "camp follower" derives from the collection of merchants, the ancient equivalent of "contractors", family and prostitutes that followed legions.

Re:How can they test? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17889030)

You're thinking of mitochondrial DNA. You're right that it traces the maternal line. However, the research in question is using chromosomal DNA.

Like this, I'd think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17888108)

Wouldn't that assume substantial mixing with a larger gene pool? If there's little mixing then it wouldn't be surprising if the genetic propensity to, for example, have "big noses" -- thanks a lot to the Chinese for that joke at the expense of us Westerners! -- might well be inherited since it would come not from *one* ancestor but *many*.

But I suspect they will be looking at the Y-Chromosome, which is inherited in the direct male line. So there you have a single thread going right back. It's where I would start. If there's a possibility this population descends in part from foreign soldiers, the direct male line seems the place to look first.

http://www.le.ac.uk/genetics/maj4/project.html [le.ac.uk]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y_chromosome#Genetic_ genealogy [wikipedia.org]

Re:How can they test? (1)

FIT_Entry1 (468985) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888114)

Thanks! It only took 10 posts before someone used ^n in a post, I won the bet. :)

Re:How can they test? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888686)

Does that 50% figure properly account for multiple births(i.e., is the gene more likely to survive if a couple has 6 children than if they have 2) in each generation?

Also, does it account of amorous cousins? It would seem that it would be slightly higher if both parents had some fraction.

Re:How can they test? (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889510)

Generally, nuclear DNA is not the only DNA that they can test. In most situations mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can be used to trace maternal lineage. In this case, mtDNA may not be used since it was not likely any that there were female Roman soldiers.

Unclear (2, Funny)

UED++ (1043486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888062)

An old theory from the 50s suggests that a Roman legion lost in what is now Iran in the year 53BC lost their commanding officer.
What is that supposed to mean? Did they lose a battle and flee to china rather than facing their superiors? Did they lose their sense of direction? (How can you mistake east for west?) Maybe they were LARPing and got a bit carried away?

Re:Unclear (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888188)

For a glimpse at this kind of disaster, I'd certainly recommend Xenophon's Anabasis [amazon.com] , his chronicle of joining 10,000 Greek mercenaries hired by Cyrus to overthrow his brother for the Persian throne, and then helping lead them back home after Cyrus was slain in battle. When your commanding office is killed while you are deep in enemy territory, you don't have too many open routes to get away. Xenophon took his comrades back to Greece by a rather roundabout way. These Romans must have found themselves force to go in a direction further and further away from Italy.

Re:Unclear (1)

ToddML (590924) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888470)

Interestingly enough, Anabasis was the not so subtle inspiration for Sol Yurick's novel "The Warriors", which was turned into a 70s cult classic of the same name, and recently revived as a video game by the GTA crew.

Re:Unclear (2, Informative)

Cinnamon Whirl (979637) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888472)

On a similar note, (though lesser scale) there are stories of the remnants of the Spanish Armada sailing around the north of Britain and back down through the Irish sea. Many of the ships were wrecked on the coast of both northern Ireland and west england, leading to settlements of Spaniards in both countries.

Re:Unclear (2, Informative)

stephencrane (771345) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888804)

Cecil Adams ("The Straight Dope") published an article in the late 80's debunking this oft-repeated idea.

Re:Unclear (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888816)

Never heard of any in England (they'd have likely been massacred, given the political situation at the time) but I've heard a few people of Irish ancestry talk of a "throwback" in the family, i.e. dark haired & eyed when the rest are the more typical blonde/ginger/mouse and blue/green/grey eyed. Could just be born on the wrong side of the blanket, of course...

Re:Unclear (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888674)

Curiously the greek word "xenophon" means "strange sound" or "foreign sound" :) So Xenophon himself might not have been a native greek.

Re:Unclear (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889208)

Xenophon's genealogy is well-established. He was from an aristocratic Attic family, as Greek as one could get. Greek names do not necessary reflect the characteristics of those who bear them. Was Xanthippus a yellow horse?

Oh come off it (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889264)

Just because you lose a commanding officer doesn't mean your escape route is suddenly cut off. Unless there was no second (or third or fourth) in command and the footsoldiers were little more than knuckle dragging morons who could barely tie their own shoelaces then they could have got out the same way they would if they had a commanding officer. And if they really were so inept they couldn't manage it what are the odds on them being successfull mercenaries that manage to walk 2000 miles to central china??

Re:Unclear (5, Informative)

pixiepaws (849908) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888264)

Check out a book called "Black Horse Odyssey" by David Harris (isbn 1-862452-270-8) it was first published in 1991 by the Wakefield Press. The Roman troops in question were the remnants of a Roman army led by Crassus (the guy who finally wacked Sparticus) that was defeated by the Parthians in 53BC. A portion of the captives were transported to the Sogdian Rock (a fort taken by Alexander the Great many years before). Sometime later a Chinese army entered that part of the world and captured the Rock but they were impressed with the Romans fighting ability (the fish scale formation) and they took 280 or so of em back to China where they ended up on frontier duty for the Chinese. David Harris was put onto the case when he saw some images of come Chinese military art that was done in the style of Roman art. Also the buildings in the area are proportioned after from practice rather than Chinese.

Put your 50BC brain in gear (3, Interesting)

Howzer (580315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888438)

It seems unclear only because you're not thinking with a 50BC brain -- you're thinking with a 2007AD brain.

Your brain sees -- clearly -- a picture map of the world from space.

A 50BC brain sees no such thing.

To the well-educated 50BC brain, it would be self-evident that continuing to travel East will bring you to the edge of the world. Perhaps they planned to then circle around the "edge" and come back "up" the Nile -- something that's hinted at in the "Alexander" film that came out a couple of years back.

Or perhaps they figured they'd circle "around" to the North, and come down "through" Gaul to get home.

This is all assuming that such a "lost legion" did, in fact, exist -- something I personally feel is unlikely.

Re:Put your 50BC brain in gear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17889402)

something that's hinted at in the "Alexander" film that came out a couple of years back

They had films in 52BC!?

Re:Unclear (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888442)

What is that supposed to mean? Did they lose a battle and flee to china

      Yes, Crassus lost a battle against the Parthians and was captured and executed. Some 150 men managed to escape. Historians assume they hired themselves out as a mercenary force and headed east, where they fought the Mongols - whose history describes having encountered a foreign fighting unit that used "scales of the fish" tactics (possibly the testudo formation) near that time period.

      It's all theory and conjecture, but you never know. It will be fun to see the results of this, although my money is against them being roman ;)

So actually it should have been ... (0, Troll)

paul.tap (717722) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888100)

... Life of Blian (not Bwian as the movie does).

a bit far... (4, Funny)

symes (835608) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888122)

to go for a take out - dontcha think?

But... (1)

dohzer (867770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888160)

What if none of the Romans got busy with the Chinese women?

Re:But... (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888248)

I think the chances of that are infinitesimal. Where there are soldiers and women, babies soon arrive.

Re:But... (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888304)

To quote my English teacher: "Roman soldiers would screw anything that moved, and some things that didn't"

Re:But... (2, Funny)

comradeeroid (1048432) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888330)

That'd be the lost greek legion.

Re:But... (3, Informative)

Warg! The Orcs!! (957405) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888380)

Unlike their earlier Greek counterparts, Roman soldiers were forbidden from interfering with each other and were also forbidden from interfering with themslves (THAT was a death penalty offence). The chances of any Roman soldier passing up the opportunity of getting jiggy with the local ladies is teeny-tiny.

Re:But... (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888522)

Written by someone who has clearly never spent extended periods of time with only other men (soldiers) for company. Having done just that myself (10 yrs active duty), I can assure you that anything that has to squat to urinate is fair game.

Re:But... (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888536)

Sorry, wrong parent, should have been posted to grandparent

Re:But... (4, Funny)

mrex (25183) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889034)

Unlike their earlier Greek counterparts, Roman soldiers were forbidden from interfering with each other and were also forbidden from interfering with themslves

Ahhhh yes, "Directivus Primus".

Why not? (0, Troll)

metushelach (985526) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888220)

If the Egyptians (could have) sailed to South America and the Africans (could have) reached Australia and NZ, then this is really nothing compared to that.

It does, however, bring up the issue of the Chinese ego, which is already big as it is. Before you know it they will claim to all being decendents of Caeser or something.

Re:Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17888666)

That's rather egotistical of you, as a westerner, to think the Chinese would value the lineage of Roman dictators over their own emperors.

Re:Why not? (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889024)

I also doubt it, the chinese very likely value their emperors above all others. Out of historical reasons

Btw. Rome is indeed an interesting issue, even nowadays- Anyway, we have way too many countries already claiming to be inheritors of the roman throne. Currently we have, indirectly russia, basically france, or nowadays the whole EU, also maybe you can add greece, and also the united states.

None of those countries or regions currently claim anything in this area directly, but all of them see themselves and indirect successors. Also add to that that the western roman emperor title, currently is vacant but could be given to someone anytime, also the eastern roman emperor title currently is legally defunct, but not yet directly dead. Also we have quite a few families who could make a claim due to historical reasons, with the Habsburgs and Romanovs being happily alive but not claiming it currently.

Failed Math (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17888246)

My ancestry is from that region of China. Now I know why I failed Math.

Photos of Liqian Residents (5, Interesting)

likerice (1046554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888260)

this story is covered in a number of places. the Telegraph has a slideshow featuring a few pictures of liqian residents here. [telegraph.co.uk]

slide #7 features a young girl with semi-blond hair, and #10 is a close-up of an older man with green-hazel eyes.

I remember the story a little differently... (5, Interesting)

Sibko (1036168) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888262)

...than the summary. It seems to imply the Romans headed east of their own free will until they met the Chinese. Here's the full story for anyone interested:

THE LOST LEGION

The battle of Carrhae [wikipedia.org] ended 53 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, in the last day of the month of may, with a shameful disaster for the Roman army. Seven legions having the strength of 45,000 soldiers were humiliated and routed by 10,000 Parthian archers. Carrhae, an ancient biblical city now known as Harran, is located on Turkey's oriental border. The commanding officer of this unfortunate expedition was Marcus Licinius Crassus, a 62 years old tribune who had organized that campaign eager to gain glory and wealth, even though he was already one of the most rich and powerful men in Rome. Perhaps he did it just because he envied the military successes of Pompeius Magnus and Caesar, and foolishly thought that he may equal them, even though Pompeius Magnus and Caesar were war professionals while Crassus was a mere amateur. His only triumph had been the bloody defeat of Spartacus, but achieved with Pompeius' help: in fact he had too little experience and genius to embark on a large-scale operation abroad.

The Republican government loathed to let him depart with such a sizeable army as there was no real emergency in the east, but Crassus eventually enlisted the support of Pompeius Magnus and Caesar, who did not fail to see the opportunity to free themselves of a powerful competitor whilst waiting to settle the score with each other. During the hot public debate in the Senate a tribunus plebis named Ateius attempted to stop him. Plutarcus writes that, when he realised that his efforts were in vain and that he would not receive enough supporting votes, he lit a brazier and, while throwing grains of incense into the flames, started to curse Crassus and evoke the infernal gods. Judging from the name and the behaviour of this man, we can guess that he was of Etruscan descent. Some metropolitan legions grouped in Rome and marched through Campania and then met at Brindisi with the others coming up from Calabria and then left in spite of the stormy sea. Not all the ships reached the other shore. Crassus had fortune, the blind goddess, on his side during his youth: he came out unscathed from the civil wars; then was implicated in the Catiline conspiracy but bore no consequences; he paid the debts of a spendthrift Caesar whilst being tightfisted himself and with his family. But things had changed and while aging he became a blunderer, making mistakes which were numerous and serious. For instance, in a speech to his soldiers he proclaimed that he would destroy a bridge "so that none of you will be able to return". Noticing their dismayed expression, Crassus corrected himself by explaining that he was referring to the enemy, not his own soldiers. He ordered the distribution of lentils and salt to the troops, oblivious of the fact that this was the meal offered at funerals. The worst possible omen occurred when Crassus dropped on the floor the slippery entrails of a sacrificial animal that were placed in his hands by a haruspex. (a soothsayer) Crassus attempted to correct this mistake by crying, "Fear not, despite my age, the hilt of my sword will not slip out of my hand". On the day of the battle, Crassus wore a black tunic, instead of the purple one de rigeur for Roman generals. Even though Crassus quickly returned to his tent to change, he left his officers speechless. We can still imagine those officers crossing their fingers ("fare le corna", forefinger and little finger raised, a very efficacious propitiatory gesture of Etruscan origin) and grasp a certain part of their body. Moreover, Crassus refused to listen to his veterans who were in favour of marching on the coast and avoid the desert to reach the Parthian capital. Rather, he trusted the arab Arimanes and his six thousand horsemen, who had secretly sided with the Parthians and abandoned the Romans few minutes before the battle. Crassus, facing the enemy, ordered his soldiers to form a square, packed like sardines, instead of scattering them so that they ended up being slaughtered by enemy arrows before they could even attempt a response.

The Parthians were using reflex bows: those with recurved edges, such as the ones used by Mongols and Chinese. These bows doubled the propulsion power of the arrows enabling them to be shot to a distance of up to 400 metres - so that they were as lethal as Kalashnikov bullets. This kind of bow was a Chinese invention, and was further perfected by the Chinese themselves in the 16th century, with their arrows capable of reaching up to 600 metres. Seeing the danger, Crassus' son, Publius, attempted a sally with a thousand gaulish cavalrymen, but half of them were slain and ran through with arrows and the remainder were taken prisoners. The head of Publius was put on a spear and shown to the Romans and to his father, and on this tragic occasion we can see the only glimpse of roman greatness in Crassus, who for a while ceased to act like an old fool, as he told his soldiers to keep up the fight and that the death of his son was only his private injury, not theirs. At nightfall, Crassus accepted to negotiate with the enemy but was caught instead in a trap and his head was also cut off. 20,000 Romans died that day, 10,000 were taken prisoner, and the remainder managed to escape and return to Italy. This setback was partially redressed by Marcus Antonius few years later and a diplomatic solution with the Parthians was reached under Augustus in 20 BC when a peace treaty was stipulated and the lost insignia were retrieved. The Parthians agreed on the return of the eagles and the banners of the seven Roman legions, but when Augustus sought the return of the prisoners abandoned in 53 BC they maintained that there were no prisoners to repatriate. The Parthian practice had always been to shift prisoners caught in the west to Turkmenistan in the east. By so doing they would secure their loyalty against their worst enemies - the Huns - and this is probably what happened to the unfortunate Romans whom the Parthians had caught. The Roman historian Plinius also upholds this theory in explaining the disappearance of so many men. What happened then to those 10,000 legionaries? No plausible answer could be found for two thousand years until an American sinologist, Homer Hasenpflug Dubs, announced a possible answer during a conference in London in 1955 called, "A Roman City in Ancient China".

Dubs had found out that in the annals of the Han dynasty there is the record of the capture of a Hun city, by the chinese army, in 36 BC named Zhizhi, now known as Dzhambul, located close to Tashkent, in Uzbekistan. It made a deep impression on Dubs that the Chinese recorded that they found palisades of tree trunks, and that the enemy had used a previously unseen battle formation at the gates of the city, namely a testudo of selected warriors forming a cover of overlapping shields in front of their bodies in the first row and over the heads in the following rows. These facts are reported in the biography of Chen Tang, one of the victorious Chinese generals, written by the historian Ban Gu (32 - 92). Many prisoners were taken during this battle and it appears that the Chinese were so struck by the military skills of those warriors that they moved them, after enlisting, further east, in a place that by imperial decree was named Li-Jien (which sounds in Chinese as the word "legion" and is the name by which the Chinese called Rome) in Gansu province. The legionaries numbered 145, and formed a garrison protecting the inhabitants from Tibetan raids. It was uncommon for Chinese to name their cities after barbarian names: the only two other known cases, Kucha and Wen-Siu, occurred where large colonies of foreigners had settled. The difficulty was to locate this outpost, as the name Li-Jien is not found on modern maps any longer. Dubs claimed to have found it, and identified the location as Zhelaizhai, not far from Lanzhou. Subsequent archaeological expeditions made by Chinese, Australians and Americans teams appear to support the choice of this Chinese city even though the smoking gun which may finally solve the mystery has yet to be found. During excavations in 1993 some fortifications were unearthed as well as a trunk fixed with stakes, possibly dating back to the time of the arrival of the legionaries. The trunk was a kind of hoist used by the Romans to build fortifications, but was unknown in China. It is now on display in the Lanzhou museum. The physical features of the inhabitants, in some cases, are also strange. A certain Sung Guorong, for instance, seems to confirm the hypothesis advanced by Dubs. He has been interviewed and filmed by several journalists: he is 46 years old, 1.82 meters tall, blond, with an aquiline nose and big blue eyes, and he loudly proclaims that he is a Roman, not a Chinese. He also claims that there are at least 100 people that look like him in the area. Not that real Romans had such features, but certainly among the Latin legionaries there were some german as well as gaulish auxiliaries. Perhaps one of Mr. Song's ancestors is one of those 500 gaulish horsemen that were captured during Publius Crassus' tragic sally. Lanzhou University has conducted DNA tests on the population of Zhelaizhai and findings show that 46% of them have genetic sequences that are similar to Europeans.

They must have been very tough these ancestors of ours to resist, to put down new roots over there, and to avoid falling prey to discouragement. They had left Rome 20 years earlier, abandoning their wives and children. Or perhaps, who knows? they may have called themselves very lucky seeing the fate of their unfortunate companions left on the field. At least they were still alive. They remarried with local chinese women, different indeed from their perfumed and refined Calpurnias, Messalinas and Clodias whom they had left behind in Rome but with them they did built a new house and a new family.

In the future, deeper examinations conducted on the Y chromosome (which is subject to little variation as it is transmitted directly from father to son) will further shed light on this mystery. This will help gather more precise information to assess kinship ties with people now living in Europe, and will help to prove the hypothesis of Dubs.

From the point of view of the artifacts, Roman coins and pottery have been unearthed in Zhelaizhai, as well as an helmet bearing the engraving in Chinese characters, "One of the prisoners". However, since this village is located along the Silk road, these are natural discoveries and similar artifacts have been found in distant places such as Vietnam and Korea.

One of Zhelaizhai's specific characteristics, worth mentioning, is the passion for bulls and tauromachy which continues to this day, and is not shared by neighboring areas. Local authorities have immediately sensed the tourist potential offered by this possible link and have built a pavilion with Roman marble statues to attract visitors.

The Chinese were aware of the existence of a big empire in the west and sent a legation in the year 97 AD, headed by Kan Ying. This legation arrived in Mesopotamia but, prior to boarding a ship to Rome, the Parthians (always them!) convinced the Chinese that two years of sailing would be necessary to reach the Eternal City.

The Parthians did not have any interest, commercially speaking, in having their two main customers meet, as this would have cut them out of a lucrative trade. For instance it is well-known that Caesar spent a considerable amount for silk bespoke-tailored togas, and that he gave Servilia, his mistress and mother of Brutus, a pearl from the south seas for which he paid 60,000 sesterces and Caesar was a trend-setter, imitated by other wealthy romans. Something like few years ago with Italians imitating FIAT's chairman Giovanni Agnelli habits and choices. The naïve Kan Yin trusted them and decided to return back to China empty handed.

Marcus Aurelius in 166 AD sent an official delegation of Romans carrying presents to the Chinese capital of Luoyang and their arrival is recorded in the dynastic annals. The Chinese however did not respond to the Roman openings, perhaps because of the occurrence in 184 AD of the peasant rebellion known as the Yellow Turbans, which caused a frightful civil war and the fall of the Han dynasty, which had ruled over China for four centuries.

Angelo Paratico
The Lost Legion [72.14.253.104]

Macedonians in Pakistan (5, Interesting)

seyyah (986027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888276)

There is also a similar story in the Chitral Valley in northern Pakistan, where many of the local Kalash people have blue eyes and blond hair and worship a pantheon of gods. They claim descent from Alexander the Great's Macedonian soldiers. The difference with the story about Romans in China is that Greeks did actually enter today's Afghanistan and Pakistan with his army. The Bactrian Empire in Afghanistan was one of the successor states to Alexander's own empire. There have been attempts to prove this theory through DNA testing as well.

Re:Macedonians in Pakistan (0, Flamebait)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888368)

There is also a similar story in the Chitral Valley in northern Pakistan, where many of the local Kalash people have blue eyes and blond hair and worship a pantheon of gods.

Nice story, but probably not a word of truth in it. Remember, this is Pakistan. This is where the crazy Taliban folks got started. You might have heard of the Taliban. They blew up statues of Buddha when they ran Afghanistan. They put Christian aid workers on trial for their lives for supposedly trying to convert the local populice. Do you really think it's credible that anywhere in Pakistan people who "worship a pantheon of gods" would be allowed to live and do so? Because I don't. Here's a quote from the Wikipedia entry on the region -
"The culture is conservative Islamic."
I think this casts a lot of doubt about the accuracy of your post.

Re:Macedonians in Pakistan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17888486)

I dont blame u! I blame your media. I am from Pakistan and there are different religions here:
Zoroastrians: worship fire, mainly live in Karachi, southern Pakistani City
Kalash: Northern Pakistan, Chitral
Yusufzai: Jewish ancestors, tribe mountains bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan, the name is derived from "Yusuf" -> Joseph, from Egypt

I've also heard about a tribe in Nothern Areas, which are atheists and practice homosexuality!

That Taliban thin is a minority in this part of the world

Re:Macedonians in Pakistan (0, Flamebait)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888556)

Are you a complete moron ? The situation in Pakistan today is as relevant to the historical past as comparing the USA to ancient Egypt.
Pakistan didn't exist as an autonomous state until 1947.

Try reading a little bit of fact [tiscali.co.uk] to reduce [gowealthy.com] your ignorance.

Here's another less leading quote from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

Pakistan has a very rich cultural and traditional background going back to Indus Valley Civilization, 2800 BC-1800 BC. The region of Pakistan has been invaded in the past, occupied and settled by many different people, including Dravidians, Aryans, Greeks, White Huns, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and various Eurasian groups. And indeed the region has formed a distinct cultural unit within the main cultural complex of South Asia from prehistoric times. There are differences in culture among the different ethnic groups in matters such as dress, food, and religion, especially where pre-Islamic customs differ from Islamic practices. The cultural origins come from the civilizations of North India and eastern Afghanistan, with significant influences from Persia, Turkestan and Hellenistic Greece. However, it was the first part of the subcontinent to receive the full impact of Islam. Hence it has developed an identity of its own.

Re:Macedonians in Pakistan (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888652)

Hmmm.

How long have the taliban been in existence? And did they ever run the government of Pakistan?

Way to stereotype a country of 150 million! Not to mention a religion. :(

Don't believe everything you read on Wikipedia.

Re:Macedonians in Pakistan (1)

seyyah (986027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888780)

Well, I've been to Pakistan, and while you are right, "the culture is conservative Islamic (sic)", that is a general statement and doesn't apply to everyone in the country. There are plenty of Ismaili Shi'ite Muslims in Pakistan. I personally met Sikhs, Christians, Hindus and Taliban supporters. And the Kalash of Chitral happen to be polytheists. So what? It a big country. Lots of different people.
Now this doesn't mean I believe that the Kalash are descendents of Macedonian soldiers, but their existence as non-Muslims is factual.

Liqian == Legion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17888448)

It wasn't in TFA, but did anyone else notice the resemblance between the name of the village, Liqian, and the latin word Legion (it was pronounced legio or legionis according to wikipedia)?
Does it mean anything in Chinese?

Re:Liqian == Legion? (3, Informative)

Heian-794 (834234) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888640)

Not sure how well Slashdot handles Chinese, but the characters are . ("Li" is the 'li' meaning 'beauty' on the right, with the horse radical on the left, and means 'black horse'. "Qian" is the 'gan' meaning 'dry' on the right, with the 'leather' radical on the left. The simplified form is this: .

Given that it's only really the English pronunciation of "legion" that resembles the Chinese word (which is pronounced like English 'li-chien' would be; Wade-Giles romanization is li-ch'ien with aspirated ch), the resemblance is probably a coincidence. Then again, I have no idea how western Chinese people would pronounce those characters, so it may indeed be a corruption of "legion". I hope it is; that would be fascinating!

Re:Liqian == Legion? (1)

Heian-794 (834234) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888798)

Obviously the Chinese characters aren't displaying as well as I'd been hoping. (To be even more accurate, on my screen they're not displaying at all.)

Here's a Google search for the characters in Liqian: http://www.google.com/search?q=%E9%A9%AA%E9%9D%AC [google.com]

Here's a site which contains these characters (see the photo in the lower right; just above the Latin letters "Liqian": http://china-world.info/china28c.htm [china-world.info]

You should also be able to see them on this page: http://mujin.parfait.ne.jp/mujins/sanguo/geodic-10 .html#Riken [parfait.ne.jp]

Hopefully one or the other of these pages will show the Chinese characters for Liqian correctly. You may have to mess with the encoding on your browser to use Unicode or SJIS.

Fish scale (2, Interesting)

Magada (741361) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888452)

If that part is true (about the chinese describing them as using a "fish scale formation, then yes, they were romans, but the fish-scale thing is not the testudo (+5 Overrated military formation of all time), but rather the standard way that maniples were ordered in a legion deployed to form a line of battle-a checkerboard pattern like this:

# # #
  # # #
# # #
which indeeed would resemble the staggered pattern of fish scales.

Re:Fish scale (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888916)

the fish-scale thing is not the testudo (+5 Overrated military formation of all time), but rather the standard way that maniples were ordered in a legion deployed to form a line of battle
With about 150 men, you'd be just about able to form one maniple. Which would look more like two blocks side by side.

which indeeed would resemble the staggered pattern of fish scales.
If you were in a helicopter.

Re:Fish scale (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889112)

If you were in a helicopter.
<von daniken>Proof that the formations were given to the Romans by aliens, probably from the constellation Pisces!</von daniken>

this is cool and all (1)

Rooked_One (591287) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888592)

but this is also the sort of story that we tend to never see a followup on.

i'm not trying to be negative, but perhaps a motivator of sorts.

Movie plot! (1)

ejtttje (673126) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889218)

but this is also the sort of story that we tend to never see a followup on.
I think it sounds like it would make a cool movie actually... survival/war story (for the guys) ending up with a happy inter-cultural understanding love story (for the ladies) I claim a portion of the royalties! (hmm, I wonder if I can get a software patent on a movie plot... it's kind of the same idea, a series of actions to perform...)

Latin Joke (1)

kernel_pat (964314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888926)

"Mihi amo tu diuturnus, combibo quinque denario"

Re:Latin Joke (2, Informative)

kernel_pat (964314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888956)

Essentially meaning "Me love you long time, SUKI SUKI five dolla" but the Roman equivalent

Just a coincidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17888966)

That "Liqian" is phonetically pronounced almost exactly like "legion," but with the accent on the first syllable.

The lost kindom of Prester John (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889036)

Maybe Prester John [wikipedia.org] was really in China? (Not unless he actually ended up in Utah or some other wacky idea...)

The other way round... (4, Interesting)

jzu (74789) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889210)

I remember an ambulance driver in France, near Chalons en Champagne, with distinctive asian features. Since he had a Russian name, I asked him once how his father looked like... but he smiled and told me his father looked Caucasian - OTOH his mother looked very much like himself. A fascinating explanation ensued: a Hun tribe had settled somewhere between Chalons and Troyes after the Battle of Catalaunic Fields in 451 instead of going back to Pannonia with the rest of Attila's army. They lived in a relatively isolated valley until recently, which kept their genes from being overly diluted. HLA groups are useful at detecting genotypes, and it seems theirs is clearly Asian.

Now this is nearly unelievable because I know this area: mostly plains, lots of roads. Such a story seems unlikely to the casual listener; however, I did ask an Haematologist about it. He confirmed this story which is well-known in the field.

Some humans just like to travel, you know... (4, Interesting)

fantomas (94850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889274)

Just recently there have been stories in the UK papers about some DNA testing in the north east of England, in Yorkshire. They've found one place where a number of folk have DNA matching the same as one specific group in Sub-Saharan Africa, and this must have happened at least a few hundred years ago.

My theory is humans just like to travel around a bit, or sometimes settle far from home because of economic or political necessity or benefit. Hey, we see it today, why not 2000 years ago?

In the UK we've got Hadrian's Wall, big old wall the Romans built in the north of England. There's documented proof that soldiers from other parts of the Empire were stationed there, from north Africa, Greece, Spain, etc... Who's to say a few of them didn't taking a liking to the place and decide to settle, maybe met a local girl, got a bit of a good little business number going locally, that sort of thing?

The idea of a bunch of soldiers going freelance in exchange for a load of money and ending up quite a long way from home (Romans in China) - well why not?
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