The Han Chinese are the largest ethnic group in the world, and their origins, development, and expansion are complex. Many genetic studies have shown that Han Chinese can be divided into two distinct groups: northern Han Chinese and southern Han Chinese. The genetic history of the southern Han Chinese has been well studied. However, the genetic history of the northern Han Chinese is still obscure.
In order to gain insight into the genetic history of the northern Han Chinese, 89 human remains were sampled from the Hengbei site which is located in the Central Plain and dates back to a key transitional period during the rise of the Han Chinese (approximately 3,000 years ago). We used 64 authentic mtDNA data obtained in this study, 27 Y chromosome SNP data profiles from previously studied Hengbei samples, and genetic datasets of the current Chinese populations and two ancient northern Chinese populations to analyze the relationship between the ancient people of Hengbei and present-day northern Han Chinese. We used a wide range of population genetic analyses, including principal component analyses, shared mtDNA haplotype analyses, and geographic mapping of maternal genetic distances.
The results show that the ancient people of Hengbei bore a strong genetic resemblance to present-day northern Han Chinese and were genetically distinct from other present-day Chinese populations and two ancient populations. These findings suggest that the genetic structure of northern Han Chinese was already shaped 3,000 years ago in the Central Plain area.Yong-Bin Zhao, et al., "Ancient DNA Reveals That the Genetic Structure of the Northern Han Chinese Was Shaped Prior to 3,000 Years Ago" PLOS One (May 4, 2015).