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The coming of the Greeks to Provence and Corsica: Y-chromosome models of archaic Greek colonization of the western Mediterranean

Roy J King1, Julie Di Cristofaro2, Anastasia Kouvatsi3, Costas Triantaphyllidis3, Walter Scheidel4, Natalie M Myres5, Alice A Lin1, Alexandre Eissautier2, Michael Mitchell6, Didier Binder7, Ornella Semino8, Andrea Novelletto9, Peter A Underhill1 and Jacques Chiaroni2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

2 Unité Mixte de Recherche 6578, Biocultural Anthropology, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Etablissement Français du S ang and Université Faculté de Médecine - Secteur Nord-Batiment A - Bd Pierre Dramard, 13344 Marseille Cedex 15, France

3 Department of Genetics, Development and Molecular Biology, School of Biology, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, 54124 Thessaloniki, Greece

4 Department of Classics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

5 Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84115, USA

6 Génétique moléculaire de la spermatogenèse, Inserm UMR 910, Faculté de médecine, Marseille, France

7 UMR6130, CNRS, Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, Campus Saint-Jean-d'Angély, 24 avenue des Diables Bleus, 06357 Nice Cedex 4, France

8 Dipartimento di Genetica e Microbiologia, Università di Pavia, Pavia, Italy

9 Department of Biology, University "Tor Vergata', Ro me 00133, Italy

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:69  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-69

Published: 14 March 2011



The process of Greek colonization of the central and western Mediterranean during the Archaic and Classical Eras has been understudied from the perspective of population genetics. To investigate the Y chromosomal demography of Greek colonization in the western Mediterranean, Y-chromosome data consisting of 29 YSNPs and 37 YSTRs were compared from 51 subjects from Provence, 58 subjects from Smyrna and 31 subjects whose paternal ancestry derives from Asia Minor Phokaia, the ancestral embarkation port to the 6th century BCE Greek colonies of Massalia (Marseilles) and Alalie (Aleria, Corsica).


19% of the Phokaian and 12% of the Smyrnian representatives were derived for haplogroup E-V13, characteristic of the Greek and Balkan mainland, while 4% of the Provencal, 4.6% of East Corsican and 1.6% of West Corsican samples were derived for E-V13. An admixture analysis estimated that 17% of the Y-chromosomes of Provence may be attributed to Greek colonization. Using the following putative Neolithic Anatolian lineages: J2a-DYS445 = 6, G2a-M406 and J2a1b1-M92, the data predict a 0% Neolithic contribution to Provence from Anatolia. Estimates of colonial Greek vs. indigenous Celto-Ligurian demography predict a maximum of a 10% Greek contribution, suggesting a Greek male elite-dominant input into the Iron Age Provence population.


Given the origin of viniculture in Provence is ascribed to Massalia, these results suggest that E-V13 may trace the demographic and socio-cultural impact of Greek colonization in Mediterranean Europe, a contribution that appears to be considerably larger than that of a Neolithic pioneer colonization.