In her recent work Did Marco Polo go to China?, the British Museum's Dr Frances Wood argues that at first there wasn't even a book based on Marco Polo's voyages. 'The collection of manuscripts and early printed books misleadingly called the Travels of Marco Polo represents a sort of data base of what was known about the East in Europe,' she says. 'If a copyist knew more about China or Mongolia than he found in the text he was copying, he added the new material, which had nothing to do with Marco Polo.' The text most widely used, she points out, is a patchwork of 50 manuscripts whose dates range from 1400 to almost 1600, to which details about Xanadu were added after Marco Polo's travels, from 1271-95. Accounts of the mares' milk ritual, for example, do not appear in the oldest manuscripts, which surfaced in 1400, long after Polo's death in 1324. 'It indicates that these things were known in Europe ... through another eyewitness, or through Arab, Persian or Chinese sources,' says Dr Wood. Although Professor Wei argues that his archaeological discoveries prove the descriptions of Xanadu in the Travels are reliable, and that Marco Polo really did travel to the city, Dr Wood disagrees. 'Wei's work does not necessarily demonstrate that Marco Polo was there,' she says. Marco Polo is believed to have recounted his tales when he was a prisoner of war in Genoa. According to their prologue, he joined his father and uncle on their second visit to China and spent 20 years travelling the Orient in the service of Kublai Khan. But Dr Wood is also struck by what Marco Polo doesn't describe: the Great Wall, footbinding, tea drinking, chopsticks and Chinese characters, although he does mention silk, coal and paper money. Professor Wei counters by pointing out that as far as the Great Wall is concerned, the section guarding the pass at Badaling, between Peking and Xanadu, did not exist in Marco Polo's time. But other gaps in the story remain. No records have been found proving Marco Polo's employment in the port of Quanzhou in Fujian province; and there are no documents detailing his period as governor of Yangzhou in Jiangsu, then a flourishing city.