Despite the complex history of the eastern Mediterranean, there is a common genetic heritage and continuity from Sicily to Crete, the Aegean Islands and Cyprus, while the southern Italians appear to have a closer genetic affinity to the populations of certain Greek islands than to those of the mainland Greece.
This is the central finding of a new Italian-German genetic research conducted by scientists from the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences of the University of Bologna and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Human History in Jena, Germany. The study, led by Stephanie Sarnno, was published in the journal of Nature Scientific Reports and funded by the National Geographic Society, analyzed 511 DNA samples from 23 populations in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Albania.
According to the researchers, the expansion of ancient Greeks to the west and the creation of Greater Greece in todays southern Italy was one of the last “episodes” in a long history of East-West travel, with the Mediterranean functioning as a crossroads for moving Genes and cultures.In particular, for the present-day Greek-speaking populations of Calabria and other southern Italy, the study points out that their genetic characteristics confirm the antiquity of their establishment in those parts well before the Byzantine times.
The new genetic analysis also makes an assessment of the origin of the family of Indo-European languages, which include Greek and Latin. Two basic theories have been proposed so far: either that their origins are Neolithic Anatolia at least 8,000 years ago, or the steppes of Caucasus and Pontus about 6,000 years ago.
Researchers have discovered in the genetic “landscape” of the southeastern Mediterranean an important “Caucasian type” genetic contribution. However, they have not found the typical genetic profile that characterizes the “Poco-Caucasian” immigration-invasion in central and eastern Europe, which has been associated with the introduction of Indo-European languages into the European space.
Researchers believe that these two main conflicting theories of origin of the Indo-European language family must be “reconciled”. “The spread of these languages in the southern regions, where Indo-European languages such as Italian, Greek and Albanian are now spoken, can not be explained only by the significant contribution of the steppes,” said researcher Kia Barbieri of the Max Planck Institute