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.European Journal of Human Genetics advance online publication, 15 July 2015; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2015.124.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Human Genetics
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2015


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