BMC Genetics has just published a new paper on the famous Tarim Basin mummies. It's a bit of a shame that it only deals with their mtDNA. Here's the abstract:
Background: The Tarim Basin in western China, known for its amazingly well-preserved mummies, has been for thousands of years an important crossroad between the eastern and western parts of Eurasia. Despite its key position in communications and migration, and highly diverse peoples, languages and cultures, its prehistory is poorly understood. To shed light on the origin of the populations of the Tarim Basin, we analysed mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms in human skeletal remains excavated from the Xiaohe cemetery, used by the local community between 4000 and 3500 years before present, and possibly representing some of the earliest settlers.
Results: Xiaohe people carried a wide variety of maternal lineages, including West Eurasian lineages H, K, U5, U7, U2e, T, R*, East Eurasian lineages B, C4, C5, D, G2a and Indian lineage M5.
Conclusion: Our results indicate that the people of the Tarim Basin had a diverse maternal ancestry, with origins in Europe, central/eastern Siberia and southern/western Asia. These findings, together with information on the cultural context of the Xiaohe cemetery, can be used to test contrasting hypotheses of route of settlement into the Tarim Basin.
Five years ago some of the same scientists published a paper on an older set of human remains from the same burial site, and found that all of the males belonged to Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a (see here). Last year one of them apparently left a comment under that paper saying this:
Our results show that Xiaohe settlers carried Hg R1a1 in paternal lineages, and Hgs H, K, C4, M* in maternal lineages. Though Hg R1a1a is found at highest frequency in both Europe and South Asia, Xiaohe R1a1a more likely originate from Europe because of it not belong to R1a1a-Z93 branch (our recently unpublished data) which mainly found in Asians.
So I'm pretty sure another paper is on the way. But hopefully the data will include much more than just broad Y-haplogroup classifications. A few full genomes from several layers of the Xiaohe cemetery would be really nice.
Chunxiang Li., Analysis of ancient human mitochondrial DNA from the Xiaohe cemetery: insights into prehistoric population movements in the Tarim Basin, China, BMC Genetics 2015, 16:78, doi:10.1186/s12863-015-0237-5
Lots of ancient Y-DNA from China
Bronze Age Tarim Basin Caucasoids belonged to Y-haplogroup R1a1a