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Ann Hum Biol. 2011 Jan;38(1):59-68. doi: 10.3109/03014460.2010.491837. Epub 2010 Jul 1.

Linking Italy and the Balkans. A Y-chromosome perspective from the Arbereshe of Calabria.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Biologia E.S., Area di Antropologia, Universit√† di Bologna, Via Selmi 3, Bologna, Italy.



The Arbereshe are an Albanian-speaking ethno-linguistic minority who settled in Calabria (southern Italy) about five centuries ago.


This study aims to clarify the genetic relationships between Italy and the Balkans through analysis of Y-chromosome variability in a peculiar case study, the Arbereshe.


Founder surnames were used as a means to identify a sample of individuals that might trace back to the Albanians at the time of their establishment in Italy. These results were compared with data of more than 1000 individuals from Italy and the Balkans.


The distributions of haplogroups (defined using 31 UEPs) and haplotypes (12 STRs) show that the Italian and Balkan populations are clearly divergent from each other. Within this genetic landscape, the Arbereshe are characterized by two peculiarities: (a) they are a clear outlier in the Italian genetic background, showing a strong genetic affinity with southern Balkans populations; and (b) they retain a high degree of genetic diversity.


These results support the hypothesis that the surname-chosen Arbereshe are representative of the Y-chromosome genetic variability of the Albanian founder population. Accordingly, the Arbereshe genetic structure can contribute to the interpretation of the recent biological history of the southern Balkans. Intra-haplogroup analyses suggest that this area may have experienced important changes in the last five centuries, resulting in a marked increase in the frequency of haplogroups I2a and J2.

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