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Thread: How genetically similar are Modern Greeks to the ancient ones?

  1. #11
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    According to the Fallmerayer theory, which proposed that the medieval Peloponneseans were totally extinguished by Slavic and Avar invaders and replaced by Slavic settlers during the 6th century AD, all modern Greek islanders are not related to Bronze Age Mycenaeans or even to classical Greeks.

    This theory has been completely refuted, by archeological, historical and linguistic records, but more so was recently debunked by two important genetic studies:

    "Genetics of the peloponnesean populations and the theory of extinction of the medieval peloponnesean Greeks" by Stamatoyannopoulos et al. (2017):
    https://www.nature.com/articles/ejhg201718

    "Genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans" by Lazaridis et al. (2017):
    https://www.nature.com/articles/nature23310

    So although modern Greeks do descend from ancient Greeks, it must be emphasized that those studies (as well as another one by Sarno et al.) did confirm that probably the most dramatic genetic admixture in Greeks, which does differ them from pre-medieval Greeks, is the 6-7th centuries Slavic admixture, which swept the entire Balkans. It is noticeable in PCAs as well as oracle results and other admixture calculators and it doesn't exist in either Mycenaeans or Minoans.

    I don't know exactly if you could quantify it to 40% as some here suggested, plus the fact that those Slavs left no cultural or linguistic mark on the Greeks makes me doubt they arrived as "pure" Slavs and probably did mix along the way with pre-existing Balkan populations North to the Greeks before arriving and mixing with the ancestors of modern Greeks, but there is indeed a genetic cline from north to south in the Greek mainland of Slavic admixture from Thrace and Macedonia (Greek Macedonia that is) all the way to the Peloponnese. This admixture then sharply decline to miniscule proportion among Greek islands, so one could say that modern Greek islanders are closer to the pre-Slavic migration/invasion Greek populations.

    A word of caution on this matter though. Greek civilization and Greeks themselves have been colonizing and Hellenizing non-Greeks from the 10th century BC (if not before and even the Mycenaeans themselves). Anatolian people (which became Asiatic Hellenes) as well as South Italian people and Sicilians, have been Hellenized since the 8th century BC and considered themselves Greeks and part of the Greek ethnos. Archimedes, for example, or in full name - Archimedes of Syracuse, was a Sicilian and lived most of his life in Sicily - yet nobody doubt he's Greek. Greek colonies have been set up along the entire Mediterranean sea - including Cyrenaica in ancient Libya and Provence in France.
    Later on, especially after Alexander the Great's conquests, and the Hellenistic empires that proceeded it, have further Hellenized Levantines and Egyptians. As a matter of fact, by the 1st century BC, Alexandria (in Egypt) and Antioch (in Syria) were two of the largest cities in the world (along with Rome) and were Greek cities.
    And let's not forget that until the 7-8th centuries AD the Balkans, South Italy and Sicily and most of the East Mediterranean were part of the Greek speaking East Roman Empire, and so being a Roman citizen meant you probably spoke Greek. Most of it's territories were well Hellenized. Some of these regions were still part of the ever shrinking empire until it's very end - 1453.

    So modern Greek people are probably to some degree descendants of some sort of admixture to some degree with these post Bronze Age populations. Asiatic Hellenes communities such as Pontic Greeks and Cappadocian Greeks (as well as West Anatolian Greeks from Izmir and such) which survived untill the 20th century in the millions and were moved to Greece probably contributed significant Anatolian admixture which will be more well distributed in the next generations and will show up more significantly in the future.
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  3. #12
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    Back in May I sent a Facebook message to Nikolaos Psonis, a post-doc biologist who is working with ancient DNA in Greece. Apparently the lab he's involved with has already analyzed some samples from classical Greece. I don't think he'd mind me posting this here since it's innocuous information:

    Quote Originally Posted by Michalis Moriopoulos
    Hi, Nikos, I'm a genomics hobbyist and happened to catch your IMBB talk touching on ancient DNA from Amvrakia, medieval Heraklion, etc. Did you get autosomal DNA, too, or just uniparentals? Any idea on when a paper with these samples might be released to the public? As a Greek myself, I can't wait to see some classical and Byzantine era genomes so we can compare them to Lazaridis' Mycenaean paper.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nikos Psonis
    Hello Mike, we have just started screening the genome of samples from different times and from different places of Greece. The results are promising, but I do not know when we are going to publish them. I hope soon. I will let you know. Thank you for your interest. Nikos
    I don't know the capabilities of his lab; hopefully, we'll get genome-wide data and not just Y-DNA. Uniparentals are certainly important, but not what we really want right now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Erikl86 View Post
    A word of caution on this matter though. Greek civilization and Greeks themselves have been colonizing and Hellenizing non-Greeks from the 10th century BC (if not before and even the Mycenaeans themselves). Anatolian people (which became Asiatic Hellenes) as well as South Italian people and Sicilians, have been Hellenized since the 8th century BC and considered themselves Greeks and part of the Greek ethnos. Archimedes, for example, or in full name - Archimedes of Syracuse, was a Sicilian and lived most of his life in Sicily - yet nobody doubt he's Greek. Greek colonies have been set up along the entire Mediterranean sea - including Cyrenaica in ancient Libya and Provence in France.
    Later on, especially after Alexander the Great's conquests, and the Hellenistic empires that proceeded it, have further Hellenized Levantines and Egyptians. As a matter of fact, by the 1st century BC, Alexandria (in Egypt) and Antioch (in Syria) were two of the largest cities in the world (along with Rome) and were Greek cities.
    And let's not forget that until the 7-8th centuries AD the Balkans, South Italy and Sicily and most of the East Mediterranean were part of the Greek speaking East Roman Empire, and so being a Roman citizen meant you probably spoke Greek. Most of it's territories were well Hellenized. Some of these regions were still part of the ever shrinking empire until it's very end - 1453.
    Μπράβο! This point is so crucial to recognize. If I had to add anything, it would only be that perhaps Hellenized peoples can be distinguished by the degree of Hellenization. Some populations certainly became part of the cosmopolitan Greco-Roman world but still retained their old ethnic identities (Jews, Egyptians, Armenians, etc.), while other groups were so thoroughly Hellenized (the ancestors of Cappadocian and Pontic Greeks) that their previous identities were totally relinquished and they became just plain "Greeks" from that point forward, albeit with a strong regional identity.

    Clearly, the Greeks expanded what it meant to be Greek every time they colonized new places, or absorbed people moving into Greece from other places. And just as you alluded, the pre-Proto-Greeks (ostensibly from the steppe) were genetically swamped by the Minoan-like indigens they Indo-Europeanized, making the Mycenaeans perhaps the least steppe-admixed Indo-Europeans in Bronze Age Europe. So the Greeks have always been genetically interesting.

    I'd love to give the OP a definitive answer about which modern group is closest to the classical Greeks but I'd rather wait for the samples. I think Agamemnon's answer is probably right.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michalis Moriopoulos View Post
    Back in May I sent a Facebook message to Nikolaos Psonis, a post-doc biologist who is working with ancient DNA in Greece. Apparently the lab he's involved with has already analyzed some samples from classical Greece. I don't think he'd mind me posting this here since it's innocuous information:





    I don't know the capabilities of his lab; hopefully, we'll get genome-wide data and not just Y-DNA. Uniparentals are certainly important, but not what we really want right now.



    Μπράβο! This point is so crucial to recognize. If I had to add anything, it would only be that perhaps Hellenized peoples can be distinguished by the degree of Hellenization. Some populations certainly became part of the cosmopolitan Greco-Roman world but still retained their old ethnic identities (Jews, Egyptians, Armenians, etc.), while other groups were so thoroughly Hellenized (the ancestors of Cappadocian and Pontic Greeks) that their previous identities were totally relinquished and they became just plain "Greeks" from that point forward, albeit with a strong regional identity.

    Clearly, the Greeks expanded what it meant to be Greek every time they colonized new places, or absorbed people moving into Greece from other places. And just as you alluded, the pre-Proto-Greeks (ostensibly from the steppe) were genetically swamped by the Minoan-like indigens they Indo-Europeanized, making the Mycenaeans perhaps the least steppe-admixed Indo-Europeans in Bronze Age Europe. So the Greeks have always been genetically interesting.

    I'd love to give the OP a definitive answer about which modern group is closest to the classical Greeks but I'd rather wait for the samples. I think Agamemnon's answer is probably right.
    That is a very weird narrative, 100% wrong. First of all Greek-speaking groups identified as 'Romans' not as 'Greeks', whether in mainland Greece, Pontus or Cappadocia.

    Then you assume that the ancestors of Cappadocian and Pontic Greeks were 'hellenized' as if they didn't have any real Greek admixture. You take for granted something contestable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Erikl86 View Post
    A word of caution on this matter though. Greek civilization and Greeks themselves have been colonizing and Hellenizing non-Greeks from the 10th century BC (if not before and even the Mycenaeans themselves). Anatolian people (which became Asiatic Hellenes) as well as South Italian people and Sicilians, have been Hellenized since the 8th century BC and considered themselves Greeks and part of the Greek ethnos. Archimedes, for example, or in full name - Archimedes of Syracuse, was a Sicilian and lived most of his life in Sicily - yet nobody doubt he's Greek. Greek colonies have been set up along the entire Mediterranean sea - including Cyrenaica in ancient Libya and Provence in France.
    The way you present it is weird. There were real movements of people. Colonization involved real movements of people.

    Greeks colonized the cities of Anatolia. Later there was intermixing with some of the native Anatolian people, especially Karians. But saying Greeks 'hellenized' Anatolian people which 'became Asiatic Hellenes' is historically inaccurate.

    Archimedes' ancestors were likely Greek or mostly Greek.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kanenas View Post
    That is a very weird narrative, 100% wrong.
    Wow, a whole one hundred percent? I guess when I do something, I do it all the way.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kanenas View Post
    First of all Greek-speaking groups identified as 'Romans' not as 'Greeks', whether in mainland Greece, Pontus or Cappadocia.
    Really? That's the hill you're gonna die on? Are you running for mayor of Mount Pedant?

    No shit, Kanenas. Everybody here knows full well there have been many names for the Greeks over the millennia. "Greek" happens to be the current one, even though it's an exonym. I didn't say the ancient peoples in question specifically called themselves "Graikoi." I said that we should probably distinguish between the people who, due to particularly strong Hellenization, became wholly ethnically Greek (oh, I'm sorry, "Romioi"), versus people like the Isaurians and Armenians who were subjects of Greek-speaking empires but managed to retain their pre-Hellenization period identities.

    As far as we can tell, the Mycenaeans didn't call themselves "Greeks" either, nor "Hellenes," and certainly not "Mycenaeans." We apply these words retroactively because we find them useful. We apply the word "Greek" to everything from Mycenaeans to ancient Cappadocian Romioi to modern Cretans because that's the word we use now for the language these people spoke/speak and the ethnic identity associated with that language. It's certainly a diverse and interesting cohort, which was the point of Erik's post and my reply to it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kanenas View Post
    Then you assume that the ancestors of Cappadocian and Pontic Greeks were 'hellenized' as if they didn't have any real Greek admixture. You take for granted something contestable.
    No, I don't. They very well might have admixture from ancient Greece proper, but most of their ancestry is clearly indigenous to Asia Minor. By the way, even the Western Jews might have "real" Greek admixture.

    As for the Southern Italians, I'll wait for the ancient DNA. It will be interesting to see if there was in fact massive gene flow into the Mezzogiorno from Greece itself or if they already similar in the first place to Mycenaeans.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michalis Moriopoulos View Post

    As for the Southern Italians, I'll wait for the ancient DNA. It will be interesting to see if there was in fact massive gene flow into the Mezzogiorno from Greece itself or if they already similar in the first place to Mycenaeans.
    Well I think it will be substantial, according to LucaszM ancient K36, I come out as 55% Mycenaean and Minoan which is very high and near both of my paternal and maternal villages in Italy they were built near old ancient Greek settlements and are surrounded by several others, also depending on the uniparentals in Italy pre Italic there might be huge evidence.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michalis Moriopoulos View Post
    As for the Southern Italians, I'll wait for the ancient DNA. It will be interesting to see if there was in fact massive gene flow into the Mezzogiorno from Greece itself or if they already similar in the first place to Mycenaeans.
    My personal belief is that the pre-existing inhabitants of southern Italy were already mostly Minoan-like (see the one reasonable quality Sicilian Bell Beaker result -- it is basically a Minoan except with somewhat more affinity to Sardinia/EEF), and I completely reject the claim they would have been similar to Iberians, North Italians, or southern French.

    With that said, what I feel needs to be explored a bit more is why the regions in southern Italy with a large Doric Greek presence in history, such as Apulia and SE Sicily are shifted toward modern mainland Greeks and away from the mainstream Sicily/Calabria cluster. In fact, Apulia can even be modeled with small amounts of Slavic. It could be due to having less MENA influence, but I think if we are finding higher NE European affinity, it has to either be explained with a Doric Greek migration where such elements were higher than what the native Sicilians had (and as we know, Sicilian Bell Beaker had 0% Steppe), or that these regions received a recent Greek migration that carried some Slavic, which is also the case for some Aegean islanders who received a back-migration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sikeliot View Post
    My personal belief is that the pre-existing inhabitants of southern Italy were already mostly Minoan-like (see the one reasonable quality Sicilian Bell Beaker result -- it is basically a Minoan except with somewhat more affinity to Sardinia/EEF), and I completely reject the claim they would have been similar to Iberians, North Italians, or southern French.

    With that said, what I feel needs to be explored a bit more is why the regions in southern Italy with a large Doric Greek presence in history, such as Apulia and SE Sicily are shifted toward modern mainland Greeks and away from the mainstream Sicily/Calabria cluster. In fact, Apulia can even be modeled with small amounts of Slavic. It could be due to having less MENA influence, but I think if we are finding higher NE European affinity, it has to either be explained with a Doric Greek migration where such elements were higher than what the native Sicilians had (and as we know, Sicilian Bell Beaker had 0% Steppe), or that these regions received a recent Greek migration that carried some Slavic, which is also the case for some Aegean islanders who received a back-migration.
    Well with the exception of the Sicels, Italic groups came fairly late into Southern Italy, Lucanians and Brutti came into Basilicata and Calabria around the middle of the 400's BC, and a chunk of Salerno was part of the historic Lucania province in Roman times so it applies to them as well. Apulia has a different ethnic background of the South during the Iron Age as the Tribes that lived there were Illyrian in origin so this can explain Puglia shift towards the Balkans. Anyways we'll have to see how the ancient Dorics looked like genetically to see if this applies. Greeks were in Southern Italy at least 200-350 years before the Italic Tribes really made their impact, and the local populations like the Oenotrians, Elymnians and Sicani were very likely what the Bronze Age population of Southern Italy was like.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Principe View Post
    Well with the exception of the Sicels, Italic groups came fairly late into Southern Italy, Lucanians and Brutti came into Basilicata and Calabria around the middle of the 400's BC, and a chunk of Salerno was part of the historic Lucania province in Roman times so it applies to them as well. Apulia has a different ethnic background of the South during the Iron Age as the Tribes that lived there were Illyrian in origin so this can explain Puglia shift towards the Balkans. Anyways we'll have to see how the ancient Dorics looked like genetically to see if this applies. Greeks were in Southern Italy at least 200-350 years before the Italic Tribes really made their impact, and the local populations like the Oenotrians, Elymnians and Sicani were very likely what the Bronze Age population of Southern Italy was like.
    All of this to me suggests that the eastern Mediterranean (everything from South Italy all the way to Anatolia probably) were of one genetic stock with higher EEF/"Sardinian like" admixture than today, which is what we see in Sicilian Bell Beaker, Mycenaeans, Minoans, and just about every sample from this era.

    We also see that these ancient samples were less NE European than modern mainland Greeks and despite their low amount today, lower than even Cretans and Sicilians, and that the Near Eastern ancestry also increased on the islands and in southern Italy.

    There are no pure, or even close to pure, descendants of any of these groups. All Italians and Greeks have been affected by demographic change.

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    Modern mainland Greeks are not very far from ancient Mycenaeans, but modern Greeks from Aegean and Crete are closer to them on PCA plot:
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/jbkf85nd4h...reeks.png?dl=0

    Mainland Greek are shifted towards Balkan Slavs, but those Balkan Slavs are quite distant from their ancient Slavic ancestors from the North, because they are very mixed with autochthonous Balkan populations.
     
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