Original Article | Published:

Testing the hypothesis of an ancient Roman soldier origin of the Liqian people in northwest China: a Y-chromosome perspective

Journal of Human Genetics volume 52, pages 584591 (2007) | Download Citation



The Liqian people in north China are well known because of the controversial hypothesis of an ancient Roman mercenary origin. To test this hypothesis, 227 male individuals representing four Chinese populations were analyzed at 12 short tandem repeat (STR) loci and 12 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP). At the haplogroup levels, 77% Liqian Y chromosomes were restricted to East Asia. Principal component (PC) and multidimensional scaling (MDS) analysis suggests that the Liqians are closely related to Chinese populations, especially Han Chinese populations, whereas they greatly deviate from Central Asian and Western Eurasian populations. Further phylogenetic and admixture analysis confirmed that the Han Chinese contributed greatly to the Liqian gene pool. The Liqian and the Yugur people, regarded as kindred populations with common origins, present an underlying genetic difference in a median-joining network. Overall, a Roman mercenary origin could not be accepted as true according to paternal genetic variation, and the current Liqian population is more likely to be a subgroup of the Chinese majority Han.

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  1. School of Life Science, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China

    • Ruixia Zhou
    • , Lizhe An
    • , Xunling Wang
    • , Wei Shao
    • , Gonghua Lin
    • , Weiping Yu
    • , Lin Yi
    • , Shijian Xu
    •  & Xiaodong Xie
  2. School of History and Culture, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China

    • Xunling Wang
  3. Institute of Genetics, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing 100101, China

    • Jiujin Xu
  4. School of Basic Medical Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China

    • Xiaodong Xie


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Correspondence to Xiaodong Xie.

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