DNA reveals surprise ancestry of mysterious Chinese mummies

Smriti Mallapaty

Nature | October 27, 2021

Aerial view of the Xiaohe cemetery surrounded by desert
Cemeteries in the Taklaman Desert, China, hold human remains up to 4,000 years old.Credit: Wenying Li, Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

Since their discovery a century ago, hundreds of naturally preserved mummies found in China’s Tarim Basin have been a mystery to archaeologists. Some thought the Bronze Age remains were from migrants from thousands of kilometres to the west, who had brought farming practices to the area. But now, a genomic analysis suggests they were indigenous people who may have adopted agricultural methods from neighbouring groups.

As they report today in Nature1, researchers have traced the ancestry of these early Chinese farmers to Stone Age hunter-gatherers who lived in Asia some 9,000 years ago. They seem to have been genetically isolated, but despite this had learnt to raise livestock and grow grains in the same way as other groups.

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Australia’s Oldest Known Rock Art is a 17,000-Year-Old Kangaroo

Alison George

New Scientist | February 22, 2021

rock art
A colour-enhanced image of the ancient kangaroo artwork | Damien Finch

A life size kangaroo painted in red ochre around 17,300 years ago is Australia’s oldest known rock art. This indicates that the earliest style of rock art in Australia focused on animals, similar to the early cave art found in Indonesia and Europe.

Thousands of rock art sites are found all over Australia, with the Kimberley region of Western Australia containing a particularly rich record. But dating the images is challenging as the minerals and organic material needed to determine when the art was created are hard to find.Read More »