Ancient DNA Reveals Appearance of 6th Century Chinese Emperor

The facial reconstruction of Emperor Wu who was ethnically Xianbei. (Credit: Pianpian Wei)
What did an ancient Chinese emperor from 1,500 years ago look like? A team of researchers has reconstructed the face of Chinese Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou using DNA extracted from his remains. The study, published March 28, 2024 in Current Biology, suggests the emperor’s death at the age of 36 might have been linked to a stroke. It also sheds light on the origin and migration patterns of a nomadic empire that once ruled parts of northeastern Asia. The open-access article is titled “Ancient Genome of the Chinese Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou.” Emperor Wu was a ruler of the Northern Zhou dynasty in ancient China. Under his reign from AD 560 to AD 578, Emperor Wu built a strong military and unified the northern part of ancient China after defeating the Northern Qi dynasty. Emperor Wu was ethnically Xianbei, an ancient nomadic group that lived in what is today Mongolia and northern and northeastern China.
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