Chinese researchers say there is enough physical evidence to take their testing to the next stage to determine if a skeleton found in Lop Nur Desert is that of a famed scientist who mysteriously disappeared 26 years ago.
The researchers have mapped the skeleton's DNA and will now conduct DNA tests on Peng Jiamu's relatives to see if there are enough similarities to declare the skeleton to be Peng.
According to the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute with the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS), the skeleton has similar features to Peng who disappeared without a trace on June 17, 1980. Peng Jiamu, a noted biochemist and then vice president of CAS Xinjiang Branch, went missing during a scientific expedition to the Lop Nur, a former nuclear testing site. He told his colleagues he was leaving camp to look for water but he was never seen again.
Peng's disappearance captured the country's attention for months and most adults vividly remember the search and rescue attempts.
Just over a year ago, a scientific mission from Dunhuang found a skeleton that was 160 cm tall, some 50 kilometers from where Peng was reported missing.
A preliminary study of the skeleton was carried out last October. But scientists were not able to identify the skeleton because no clothing or personal belongings were found. The first DNA test failed as the samples from the skeleton were not properly handled.
A research team headed by scientists from CAS collected more samples from the skeleton on April 18.
(Xinhua News Agency April 28, 2006)