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EDITIONS
Eurasia 98 Friday, 5 June, 1998, 18:27 GMT 19:27 UK
Virtual scientists open genetic history book
The expedition is expected to last five-months
A team of scientists is travelling through Central Asia and onto Siberia with the ambitious aim of mapping ancient migration routes of populations throughout the region.

Following the ancient Silk Road, the scientists led by US geneticist Dr Spencer Wells will gather DNA samples from people in regions which have long been inaccessible to Western researchers.

Volunteers will be asked for blood samples
Volunteers will be asked for blood samples
The samples will be studied using the pioneering techniques of genetic anthropology to answer questions that have proved difficult for traditional anthropologists - in everyday terms who slept with who, and when?

Central Asia is particularly interesting says Dr Wells. "There have been so many movements there, it really is the melting pot of Asia.

"It has an incredibly complex genetic history and what we are trying to do is untangle it," he says.

There could be political lessons to be drawn from EurAsia '98 too - Dr Wells is the first US scientist to be allowed such wide ranging access to Iran since the 1979 revolution.

Travel with the team

Throughout the five-month expedition, the team will be updating their own website and BBC News Online will be carrying progress reports and putting you in touch with the team.

Spencer Wells (left) with collaborator Professor Ruzibakiev (right)
"We're doing an expedition that can be witnessed by, potentially, millions," says Dr Wells.

"And we can interact with people. So they can read something that we've done and say 'well, I think you are doing this all wrong, you should go out and do this instead.' so they can send us an e-mail and we can modify what we are doing in the field."

The BBC's Darius Bazargan, and photographer Mark Read are travelling with the team and will be sending regular reports on the people, places and politics of the areas visited.

Read Darius' latest report here

Collaborating with Dr. Wells is Professor R.M. Ruzibakiev from the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, who helped to co-ordinate the 1996 expedition and is invaluable due to his extensive knowledge of the diverse linguistic and ethnic groups in the region.

The fifth member of the team is Nat Pearson, a graduate student at the University of Chicago who has been helping Dr Wells with his research for the last few years.

You can share this unique adventure, experience the pressures of a cutting-edge scientific expedition and e-mail your questions to the team here at BBC News Online.

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Links to more Eurasia 98 stories are at the foot of the page.


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