The Greeks in the West: genetic signatures of the Hellenic colonisation in southern Italy and Sicily Academic Article uri icon


  • 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.


  • Tofanelli, S
  • Brisighelli, F
  • Anagnostou, P
  • Busby, GBJ
  • Ferri, G
  • Thomas, MG
  • Taglioli, L
  • Rudan, I
  • Zemunik, T
  • Hayward, C
  • Bolnick, D
  • Romano, V
  • Cali, F
  • Luiselli, D
  • Shepherd, GB
  • Tusa, S
  • Facella, A
  • Capelli, C

publication date

  • 2016