URUMQI, China—After years of controversy and political intrigue, archaeologists using genetic testing have proved that Caucasians roamed China’s Tarim Basin 1,000 years before East Asian people arrived.
The research finding—which the Beijing government apparently delayed releasing, fearing it could fuel Uighur Muslim separatism in China’s western-most Xinjiang region—is based on a cache of ancient dried-out corpses that have been found around the Tarim Basin in recent decades.
The discoveries in the 1980s of the undisturbed 4,000-year-old “Beauty of Loulan” and the 3,000-year-old body of the “Charchan Man” are legendary in international archaeological circles for the fine state of their preservation and for the wealth of knowledge they bring to modern research.
Mr. Mair, a University of Pennsylvania professor who played a pivotal role in bringing the discoveries to Western scholars in the 1990s, has struggled to take samples out of China for genetic testing. One recent expedition was allowed to take five samples out.
“From the evidence available, we have found that during the first 1,000 years after the Loulan Beauty, the only settlers in the Tarim Basin were Caucasoid,” Mr. Mair said.
East Asian peoples began showing up in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin only about 3,000 years ago, he said, while the Uighurs arrived after the collapse of the Orkhon Uighur Kingdom, largely based in modern-day Mongolia, about the year 842.
A study last year by Jilin University also found that the mummies’ DNA had Europoid genes.