The Greeks in the West: Genetic signatures of the Hellenic colonisation in southern Italy and Sicily

Sergio Tofanelli, Francesca Brisighelli, Paolo Anagnostou, George B J Busby, Gianmarco Ferri, Mark G. Thomas, Luca Taglioli, Igor Rudan, Tatijana Zemunik, Caroline Hayward, Deborah Bolnick, Valentino Romano, Francesco Cali, Donata Luiselli, Gillian B. Shepherd, Sebastiano Tusa, Antonino Facella, Cristian Capelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Greek colonisation of South Italy and Sicily (Magna Graecia) was a defining event in European cultural history, although the demographic processes and genetic impacts involved have not been systematically investigated. Here, we combine high-resolution surveys of the variability at the uni-parentally inherited Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA in selected samples of putative source and recipient populations with forward-in-time simulations of alternative demographic models to detect signatures of that impact. Using a subset of haplotypes chosen to represent historical sources, we recover a clear signature of Greek ancestry in East Sicily compatible with the settlement from Euboea during the Archaic Period (eighth to fifth century BCE). We inferred moderate sex-bias in the numbers of individuals involved in the colonisation: a few thousand breeding men and a few hundred breeding women were the estimated number of migrants. Last, we demonstrate that studies aimed at quantifying Hellenic genetic flow by the proportion of specific lineages surviving in present-day populations may be misleading.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-436
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics


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