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Ancient China

Motherland Myanmar: New research suggests Burma was birthplace of early Chinese people

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 April, 2015, 8:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 4:58pm

Some of the earliest modern humans in China may have come from Myanmar by river, according to a new paper published in the latest issue of international journal Scientific Reports.

The study, conducted by researchers with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Kunming Institute of Zoology, found the genetic origin of many people in Southwest China could be traced to ancient populations in Myanmar, especially the Barma, Karen and Rakhine peoples.

The findings suggest that Myanmar, also known as Burma, was an important settlement in the migration route of early humans to China.

After moving out of Africa and reaching Southeast Asia around 60,000 years ago, some human ancestors likely arrived in Myanmar 50,000 years ago and stayed there for an extensive period.

For the subsequent 25,000 years Myanmar was a hot bed for the mingling and evolution of early humans.

The researchers analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of more than 6,000 individuals in Myanmar and discovered strong signs that the region was an important centre of genetic diversification in Asia.

Starting about 25,000 years ago, the first wave of migrants left for what is now China.

They were likely following river valleys connecting the two countries, such as the Ayeyarwady River, whose upper part is known as the Dulong River in China’s Yunnan province.

The second wave of migration occurred about 10,000 years ago.

The genetic evidence matched well to archaeological records, the researchers said.

Paleolithic cultures in Myanmar and Yunnan shared lots of similarities with geological distributions mainly alone the Ayeyarwady river valley.

The study also suggested that the first human settlers in China not only came from the sea, but also a previously unknown overland route.

"Besides the well-known coastal route, the inland dispersal route did exist and was adopted by the ancestors of modern humans to enter and populate the interior of mainland East Asia,” the researchers wrote.

“[The migration] was most likely facilitated by river valleys and had played an important yet unrecognized role in peopling East Asia.”