Sunday, February 04, 2007

The lost legion

For a very long time there has been a story making the scholarly and popular rounds that Roman legionnaires from Crassus' army, defeated by the Parthians in 53 BC, were 17 years later part of a Hun army defeated by the Chinese, when they were captured and settled on China's western frontier. Some versions of the story identify the village of Liqian near the Gobi desert with the legionnaires' settlement, and sure enough, some of the modern inhabitants have big noses, light hair, and green eyes. (See Cai Junnian, above, now called by his friends Cai Luoma, or "Cai the Roman.")

Now some geneticists are taking this story seriously enough to take blood samples from 93 people near Liqian to see if they can make a Roman connection. Like some of their critics, I'm not sure what they can prove, but what the heck. In the meantime it may bring tourists to isolated Liqian to sing at the Caesar karaoke bar.

More in the Telegraph (UK).

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