GENETIC testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a “lost legion” of Roman soldiers.
Tests found that the DNA of some villagers in Liqian, on the fringes of the Gobi Desert in north-western China, was 56% Caucasian in origin. Many of the villagers have blue or green eyes, long noses and even fair hair, prompting speculation that they have European blood.
A local man, Cai Junnian, is nicknamed Cai Luoma, or “Cai the Roman”, and is one of many villagers convinced that he is descended from the lost legion.
Archaeologists plan to conduct digs in the region, along the ancient Silk Route, to search for remains of forts or other structures built by the fabled army unit.
“We hope to prove the legend by digging and discovering more evidence of China’s early contacts with the Roman Empire,” Yuan Honggeng, the head of a newly-established Italian Studies Centre at Lanzhou University, in Gansu province, told the China Daily newspaper.
The genetic tests have lent weight to the theory that Roman legionaries settled in the area in the first century BC after fleeing a battle. The clash took place in 53BC between an army led by Marcus Crassus, a Roman general, and a larger force of Parthians, from what is now Iran, bringing to an abrupt halt the Roman Empire’s eastwards expansion.
Thousands of Romans were slaughtered and Crassus beheaded, but some were said to have fled east. – © The Daily Telegraph UK 2010