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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The coming of the Greeks to Provence and Corsica

A new paper released by King, Underhill, Chiaroni et al tries to unravel the Y chromosome contribution of ancient greek settlements to the Southern French regions of Provence and Corsica. Their conclusions in analyzing the data is that upwards of 17% of the paternal lineages in Provence could be of Ancient Greek origin. The study itself focuses on E1b1b V-13 as the signature greek marker. Their conclusions also suggest that southern France had little contribution from the Neolithic period. However, how they arrived at these conclusions, while they may be valid, could be, in part, erroneous. Southern France, especially around the testing areas along the Rhone was not simply a Roman territory, it was part of "Rome" itself, with senatorial representation. The study tries to negate the contribution of E-V13 from Roman sources by comparing Provence to other Roman conquered areas such as Spain and England. This comparison is apples and oranges as southern France was far more tightly integrated into the Roman Empire than most other areas outside present day Italy. Therefore, some of the E-V13 found in southern france may be indicative of Roman settlement and not just of Greek origin.

The paper also suggests that Haplogroup subclades G2a3a-M406 and J2a4h-M530 are indicative of Neolithic migrations. And therefore the absence of these subclades suggests little or no Neolithic contribution to the present day genetic makeup in Provence. This assumption can lead to false conclusions as G2a3a and J2a4h are likely indicative of multiple origins from the Middle East and based on certain dating methods could be indicative of post-neolithic migrations. So, the authors conceivably could be looking at the right haplogroups but the wrong subclades to estimate Neolithic contributions to the present day genetic makeup of Southern France.

Criticisms aside, the authors provide solid evidence that Greek settlement in southern France is evidenced in today's genetic makeup of men from the region. There are some clear correlations of haplotypes and their study involves a much deeper analysis both of subclades and haplotype STR's allowing for more accurate comparisons. Combined with archaelogical evidence, viticulture and historical knowledge, this region of southern France carries with it, traces of ancient Greek origins in their genes as well.

Looking at J2-M172, the authors found 10% derived M172 haplotypes in their sample study. 8% were derived for M530, J2a4h with 445=6 while 2% were derived for J2a4b, M67. Many J2 subclades were completely absent from the region including J2a4b1-M92, J2a4h with 445=10, J2a*, J2a4* and all subclades of J2b.