Western Contact with China
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archeologists excavating the tomb of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, recently unearthed artifacts that suggest westerners have been traveling to Asia since the third century B.C. The findings, identifiable as western via genetic traces and art techniques, make Marco Polo's 13th-century adventures look far less groundbreaking.

Because Polo’s expedition was so well documented (he even co-authored a book about his 24-year-long journey) we often salute him as one of the first voyagers to journeys across Mongolia and China.

But archeologists are now suggesting contact between the East and the West may have been established some 1,500 years before Polo set sail.

As the BBC reported, Chinese historians recorded visits from delegates—likely from the Roman Empire—during the second and third centuries. And archeologists suggest ancient Greeks (think: the third century B.C.) may have inspired, and even assisted, artisans with the creation of the Terracotta Army buried with the First Emperor of China.

If artistic flourishes and observations aren’t convincing, consider instead the genetic findings. A separate study has isolated European mitochondrial DNA samples from archeological sites in the Xinjiang Province.

A BBC Two Documentary, The Greatest Tomb on Earth: Secrets of Ancient China, will debut on Sunday, and explore these newfound discoveries, among others.