All Roads Lead to The Middle Kingdom
May 2, 2006 12:16 PM   Subscribe


Blonde hair alone isn't evidence there were romans there. I mean, everyone accepts the European appearing mummies found in china as real:
In the late 1980's, perfectly preserved 3000-year-old mummies began appearing in a remote Chinese desert. They had long reddish-blond hair, European features and didn't appear to be the ancestors of modern-day Chinese people. Archaeologists now think they may have been the citizens of an ancient civilization that existed at the crossroads between China and Europe.
posted by malphigian at 12:27 PM on May 2, 2006

Maybe they were looking for some Chinese food.
posted by jonmc at 12:36 PM on May 2, 2006

What, no pictures? That sucks.

1998: August, Romans in China
posted by geoff. at 12:47 PM on May 2, 2006

See also.
posted by homunculus at 12:52 PM on May 2, 2006

When in China, do as the Romans do ...
posted by nofundy at 12:54 PM on May 2, 2006

By the way, China invented golf. And the fork. And the hottie.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 1:01 PM on May 2, 2006

I was hoping for an image of these citizens as well.
posted by NationalKato at 1:03 PM on May 2, 2006

I thought Mexico invented the hottie.
posted by jonmc at 1:04 PM on May 2, 2006

posted by R. Mutt at 1:04 PM on May 2, 2006

This one goes out to jonmc.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 1:07 PM on May 2, 2006

posted by stinkycheese at 1:07 PM on May 2, 2006

Thwow him to the gwound, centuwion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:12 PM on May 2, 2006

Astro, the word you're looking for "fwoowa".
posted by The Bellman at 1:22 PM on May 2, 2006

He was 1.82 meters tall, with a high-bridged nose, large deep-set eyes, and curly blond hair.
This FPP (and these dry news stories) really, really need some photos.
posted by zek at 1:22 PM on May 2, 2006

Maybe someone could photoshop something up here?
posted by stinkycheese at 1:28 PM on May 2, 2006

Romans didn't have blonde hair.

posted by empath at 1:37 PM on May 2, 2006

My god, all of us scandinavians know we migrated around the world way back when. Jeeze.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 1:38 PM on May 2, 2006

很快显露, 一切来自中国。

Between golf and this and everything else coming to light lately, it seems like not only is this going to be "the Chinese Century", but they've really just been playing along for the past, oh, hundred or two hundred years.

I need to learn me some Chinese.
posted by blacklite at 1:38 PM on May 2, 2006

Mean Mr Bucket: thank you for that superior posterior. Why can't American women grow 'em like that?
posted by jonmc at 1:42 PM on May 2, 2006

My wife’s mom was really surprised I was eating all the food she served me when my wife and I first started going out. Lots of roots, lots of garlic, etc. etc. Italian cooking and central Asian cooking have a lot of similarities.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:44 PM on May 2, 2006

Those allies could have come in at any time. And didn't the romans have dark hair anyway?
posted by delmoi at 1:48 PM on May 2, 2006

What this really needs is some kind of faked up map.
posted by Artw at 1:55 PM on May 2, 2006

Northwest China (Xinjiang to the Chinese) is full of Caucasians. This is news?
posted by 1-2punch at 2:05 PM on May 2, 2006

Pictorial proof.
posted by rob511 at 2:21 PM on May 2, 2006

This one goes out to jonmc.

Gotta love them Jersey girls.
posted by NationalKato at 2:33 PM on May 2, 2006

It wouldn't surprise me at all. Even at a very young age, I couldn't understand why certain people were shocked, so shocked at the idea of Ethiopian Jews. People tend to move around a lot. Their record keeping skills, however, aren't always so hot. Further, people tend to retroactively apply the nation-state model to land and people thousands of years before a "border" really meant anything.

I salute you, Chinese Romans. I mean, there has to be a reason for those Chinese/Italian joints in NYC, right?
posted by bardic at 2:54 PM on May 2, 2006

1-2punch: Northwest China (Xinjiang to the Chinese) is full of Caucasians.

Yup. A friend of mine who lives in China and is Caucasian, although not exactly blond, often tells Chinese people that he's from Xinjiang. "Well that explains your funny accent" seems to be a typical reaction.

I'd expect people in Xinjiang to be similar looking to Turks, though, so not exactly blond either.
posted by sour cream at 2:55 PM on May 2, 2006

Don't forget the ancient jews in China.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:12 PM on May 2, 2006

That Wikipedia article is very frustrating in a very Wikipedia way. It is interesting, and seems quite authoratitve, but it has almost no sources so it is totally unclear whether it is just "some guy" writing it, or whether it represents any kind of scholarly consensus.

Anyone have any idea?
posted by blahblahblah at 3:13 PM on May 2, 2006

There was a really cool thing on tv the other day, about how every single European can be traced back to one single male ancestor on the Silk Road. (they actually found a descendant of the guy and his family)

And what Sticky said about us Jews--we've been there for ages and ages--as long as people have been trading in the region.
posted by amberglow at 3:27 PM on May 2, 2006

Don't forget the ancient jews in China.

And the ancient jews in India.
posted by soiled cowboy at 3:39 PM on May 2, 2006

There was a really cool thing on tv the other day, about how every single European can be traced back to one single male ancestor on the Silk Road. (they actually found a descendant of the guy and his family)

Then couldn't they just show any European and claim it's a descendant of the guy?
posted by stopgap at 4:42 PM on May 2, 2006

the guy wasn't really someone we would consider European, lookswise--sort of a mix of Afghani-looking and Chinese-looking and other stuff. They traced the DNA markers or something.
posted by amberglow at 4:59 PM on May 2, 2006

The Hmong were another group that had european features in ancient China.
posted by afu at 5:16 PM on May 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Don't forget the ancient Jews on MetaFilter.

PP, you with me? Whoo, we're the new Elders of Zion, man!
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:08 PM on May 2, 2006

Romans didn't have blonde hair.

Actually, if we're talking about the Roman empire (and in fact we are), many of them did. In fact, Rome's policy of incorporating conquered people into their empire as full citizens (and the result of invasions) meant that in the latter Roman empire, many of the citizens in what is now Italy, particularly in the north, were people of germanic descent, and many of those were blonde and blue-eyed.

From Wikipedia:
Italy, especially the area north of the city of Rome, has also had a history of heavy Germanic settlement. Germanic tribes such as the Visigoths, Vandals, and Ostrogoths had successfully invaded and sparsely settled Italy in the 5th century AD. Most notably, in the 6th century AD, the Germanic tribe known as the Lombards entered and settled primarily in the area known today as Lombardy. The Normans, a partially Germanic people, also conquered and ruled Sicily and parts of southern Italy for a time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:34 PM on May 2, 2006

I already knew about this from playing CIV IV
posted by mikojava at 8:22 PM on May 2, 2006

malphigian said it, there were Causcasians living in Western China long before there were any Chinese (see the link on the tarim desert mummies). The Uighurs that live in the region have noticebably Eurasian features, some have blue-eyes, curly hair etc.

And yes, the Romans where not blonde.
posted by lagado at 9:23 PM on May 2, 2006

okay that was a cheat because Fayoum portraits are of Egyptian Romans but the Romans were as blonde todays' Italians (i.e. not usually)
posted by lagado at 9:25 PM on May 2, 2006

I dunno. I saw a hell of a lot of blondes in Northern Italy in particular, when I travelled there many years ago.

Granted, it's possible most were dye-jobs.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:55 PM on May 2, 2006

Blondes in Tianshan (Xinjiang).

Don't make the mistake of thinking that Roman legionnaires hailed from Rome. Almost all of them were foederati (treaty-federated tribes) from outer provinces of the Empire (though still heavily Mediterranean at that point). It was also common for POWs to be forced into service as far away as possible from their own peoples. I find this at least plausible, but I'd like to see some firmer evidence -- archaeological would be nice, DNA should be easy too.

Anyway, we're pretty sure that Alexander -- four centuries earlier -- left troops in Afghanistan.

One thing we know is that people of the past were surprisingly mobile.
posted by dhartung at 10:33 PM on May 2, 2006

dhartung: on the DNA evidence:
We present the analysis of mtDNA control-region sequences in samples of the Kazakh, the Uighurs, the lowland Kirghiz, and the highland Kirghiz, which we have used to address both the population history of the region and the possible selective pressures that high altitude has on mtDNA genes. Central Asian mtDNA sequences present features intermediate between European and eastern Asian sequences, in several parameters-such as the frequencies of certain nucleotides, the levels of nucleotide diversity, mean pairwise differences, and genetic distances. Several hypotheses could explain the intermediate position of central Asia between Europe and eastern Asia, but the most plausible would involve extensive levels of admixture between Europeans and eastern Asians in central Asia, possibly enhanced during the Silk Road trade and clearly after the eastern and western Eurasian human groups had diverged. Lowland and highland Kirghiz mtDNA sequences are very similar, and the analysis of molecular variance has revealed that the fraction of mitochondrial genetic variance due to altitude is not significantly different from zero. Thus, it seems unlikely that altitude has exerted a major selective pressure on mitochondrial genes in central Asian populations.
This mixing goes back quite probably to well before the Romans.
posted by talos at 7:53 AM on May 3, 2006

In 1242 the retreating Mongol army of Batu Khan carried away 40,000 prisoners from the region of Transylvania - mostly Saxon Germans and Hungarians to the Tien Shan Mountains in western China. To this day there is a species of Edelweiss flower that exists in only two places in the world: the Turda Gorge in Transylvania, and in the Tien Shan mountains.

The Franciscan Friar William of Rubruck was sent as a papal envoy to the Mongol courts in 1253. One of his missions was to inquire about the fate of those 40,000 Christians, some of whom he mentions:

A certain woman from Metz in Lorraine, Paquette [or Pascha] by name, and who had been made a prisoner in Hungary, found us out, and she gave us the best food she could. She belonged to the ordu of the Christian lady of whom I have spoken, and she told me of the unheard-of misery she had endured before coming to the ordu. But now she was fairly well off. She had a young Ruthenian husband, of whom she had had three right fine looking boys, and he knew how to make houses, a very good trade among them. Furthermore, she told us that there was in Caracarum a certain master goldsmith, William by name, a native of Paris: and his family name was Buchier, and the name of his father was Laurent Buchier.

posted by zaelic at 11:09 AM on May 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

This mixing goes back quite probably to well before the Romans.

posted by lagado at 6:07 AM on May 4, 2006

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