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Keywords:

  • ancient DNA;
  • mtDNA;
  • genetic structure

Abstract

The Wanggu tribe, which contributed significantly to the foundation of the Yuan Dynasty, was one of the groups living on the Mongolian steppes during the Jin-Yuan period (AD 1127–1368) of Chinese history. However, there has been both archaeological and historical dispute regarding the origin of the ancient tribe. Recently, we discovered human remains of the Wanggu tribe in the Chengbozi cemetery in the Siziwang Banner of Inner Mongolia, China. To investigate the genetic structure of the Wanggu tribe and to trace the origins of the tribe at a molecular level, we analyzed the control-region sequences and coding regions of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from the remains by direct sequencing and restriction-fragment length polymorphism analysis. In combination with mtDNA data of 15 extant Eurasian populations, we performed phylogenetic analysis and multidimensional scaling analysis. Our results show that the genetic structure of the Wanggu tribe in the Jin-Yuan period is a complex matriline, containing admixture from both Asian and European populations. In addition, we reveal that on the basis of mtDNA data, the ancient tribe may share a recent common ancestor with the Turkic-speaking Uzbeks and Uighurs. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.