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Genetics of the peloponnesean populations and the theory of extinction of the medieva

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  • Genetics of the peloponnesean populations and the theory of extinction of the medieva

    Genetics of the peloponnesean populations and the theory of extinction of the medieval peloponnesean Greeks
    EJHG Open
    George Stamatoyannopoulos, Aritra Bose, Athanasios Teodosiadis, Fotis Tsetsos, Anna Plantinga, Nikoletta Psatha, Nikos Zogas, Evangelia Yannaki, Pierre Zalloua, Kenneth K Kidd, Brian L Browning, John Stamatoyannopoulos, Peristera Paschou and Petros Drineas
    Received 13 September 2016; Revised 14 December 2016; Accepted 22 January 2017
    Advance online publication 8 March 2017
    European Journal of Human Genetics (2017) 25, 637–645; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2017.18; published online 8 March 2017
    Open access; .pdf download available

    Peloponnese has been one of the cradles of the Classical European civilization and an important contributor to the ancient European history. It has also been the subject of a controversy about the ancestry of its population. In a theory hotly debated by scholars for over 170 years, the German historian Jacob Philipp Fallmerayer proposed that the medieval Peloponneseans were totally extinguished by Slavic and Avar invaders and replaced by Slavic settlers during the 6th century CE. Here we use 2.5 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms to investigate the genetic structure of Peloponnesean populations in a sample of 241 individuals originating from all districts of the peninsula and to examine predictions of the theory of replacement of the medieval Peloponneseans by Slavs. We find considerable heterogeneity of Peloponnesean populations exemplified by genetically distinct subpopulations and by gene flow gradients within Peloponnese. By principal component analysis (PCA) and ADMIXTURE analysis the Peloponneseans are clearly distinguishable from the populations of the Slavic homeland and are very similar to Sicilians and Italians. Using a novel method of quantitative analysis of ADMIXTURE output we find that the Slavic ancestry of Peloponnesean subpopulations ranges from 0.2 to 14.4%. Subpopulations considered by Fallmerayer to be Slavic tribes or to have Near Eastern origin, have no significant ancestry of either. This study rejects the theory of extinction of medieval Peloponneseans and illustrates how genetics can clarify important aspects of the history of a human population.