Scientist have taken blood samples from 93 people living in and around Liqian, a remote Chinese village on the edge of the Gobi desert, in an attempt to solve a 2,000-year-old mystery over whether they are descendents of Roman soldiers.

Researchers hope the DNA tests explain the unusually high number of local people with western characteristics — green eyes, big noses, and even blonde hair — mixed with traditional Chinese features.

"I really think we are descended from the Romans," Song Guorong, 48, told the Telegraph newspaper. Song has wavy hair, is six-feet tall and has a strikingly long nose that stands out from his short, round-faced office colleagues.

"There are the residents with these special features, and then there are also historical records about the existence of these people long ago," he said.

The town's link with Rome was first suggested by a professor of Chinese history at Oxford in the 1950s who culled official histories and found Liqian described as a village founded by soldiers captured in a war between the Chinese and the Huns in 36BC, and the legend of the missing army of Marcus Crassus, a Roman general, the Telegraph reported.

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