Anthropologists looking for Roman legion in China

New Delhi, Nov 21 (ANI): Experts at the newly established Italian Studies Center at Lanzhou University in Gansu province are looking into the possibility that some European-looking Chinese in Northwest China are the descendants of a lost army from the Roman Empire.

They will conduct excavations on a section of the Silk Road, a 7,000-kilometer trade route that linked Asia and Europe more than 2,000 years ago, to see if a legion of Roman soldiers settled in China, said Yuan Honggeng, head of the center, reports China Daily.

"We hope to prove the legend by digging and discovering more evidence of China's early contact with the Roman Empire," said Yuan.

Before Marco Polo's travels to China in the 13th century, the only known contact between the two empires was a visit by Roman diplomats in 166 AD.

Chinese archaeologists were therefore surprised in the 1990s to find the remains of an ancient fortification in Liqian, a remote town in Yongchang county on the edge of a desert area, that was strikingly similar to Roman defense structures.

They were even more astonished to find Western-looking people with green, deep-set eyes, long hooked noses and blond hair.

DNA tests in 2005 confirmed some of the villagers were indeed of Caucasian origin, leading many experts to conclude they are descendants of an ancient Roman army headed by general Marcus Crassus.

Though some anthropologists are convinced the Caucasian-looking villagers in Yongchang county are the descendants of the soldiers, others are not so certain.

"The county is on the Silk Road, so there were many chances for trans-national marriages," said Yang Gongle, of the Beijing Normal University.

"The 'foreign' origin of the Yongchang villagers, as proven by the DNA tests, does not necessarily mean they are of ancient Roman origin," said Gongle. (ANI)

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