Saturday, August 04, 2007

Y chromosome study probes ancient Liangzhu culture

A new DNA study from China suggests, among other things, that the ancient Liangzhu Culture of the Yangtze region, famed for its jade work, had genetic signatures suggesting an Austronesian and Daic population. One has to question whether genetics, in this case the O1 haplotype, can say anything about language culture especially that far back in time, but the study does support the archaeological evidence suggesting Liangzhu had links with areas further South.

Y chromosomes of prehistoric people along the Yangtze River.

MOE Key Laboratory of Contemporary Anthropology, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200433, China.

The ability to extract mitochondrial and nuclear DNA from ancient remains has enabled the study of ancient DNA, a legitimate field for over 20 years now. Recently, Y chromosome genotyping has begun to be applied to ancient DNA. The Y chromosome haplogroup in East Asia has since caught the attention of molecular anthropologists, as it is one of the most ethnic-related genetic markers of the region. In this paper, the Y chromosome haplogroup of DNA from ancient East Asians was examined, in order to genetically link them to modern populations. Fifty-six human remains were sampled from five archaeological sites, primarily along the Yangtze River. Strict criteria were followed to eliminate potential contamination. Five SNPs from the Y chromosome were successfully amplified from most of the samples, with at least 62.5% of the samples belonging to the O haplogroup, similar to the frequency for modern East Asian populations. A high frequency of O1 was found in Liangzhu Culture sites around the mouth of the Yangtze River, linking this culture to modern Austronesian and Daic populations. A rare haplogroup, O3d, was found at the Daxi site in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, indicating that the Daxi people might be the ancestors of modern Hmong-Mien populations, which show only small traces of O3d today. Noticeable genetic segregation was observed among the prehistoric cultures, demonstrating the genetic foundation of the multiple origins of the Chinese Civilization.