Short Report

European Journal of Human Genetics (2009) 17, 848–852; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2008.258; published online 21 January 2009

Moors and Saracens in Europe: estimating the medieval North African male legacy in southern Europe

Cristian Capelli1, Valerio Onofri2, Francesca Brisighelli3,4, Ilaria Boschi4, Francesca Scarnicci4, Mara Masullo4, Gianmarco Ferri5, Sergio Tofanelli6, Adriano Tagliabracci2, Leonor Gusmao7, Antonio Amorim7,8, Francesco Gatto9, Mirna Kirin10, Davide Merlitti11, Maria Brion3, Alejandro Blanco Verea3, Valentino Romano12, Francesco Cali13 and Vincenzo Pascali4

  1. 1Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Institute of Legal Medicine, Universita' Politecnica delle Marche, Policlinico Torrette, Ancona, Italy
  3. 3Medicine Genomic Group, Hospital-University complex of Santiago (CHUS), University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  4. 4Instituto di Medicina Legale, Universita' Cattolica del S. Cuore, Rome, Italy
  5. 5Department of Diagnostic and Laboratory Service and Legal Medicine, Section of Legal Medicine, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy
  6. 6Department of Biology, Anthropology Unit, University of Pisa, Italy
  7. 7IPATIMUP – Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology of the University of Porto, Portugal
  8. 8Faculty of Sciences, University of Porto, Portugal
  9. 9Biotechnology Unit, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale Lazio e Toscana, Rome, Italy
  10. 10Public Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland
  11. 11Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Pisa, Italy
  12. 12Dipartimento di Oncologia Sperimentale e Applicazioni Cliniche Università di Palermo, Italy
  13. 13Oasi Institute for Research on mental Retardation and Brain Aging (IRCCS), Troina, Italy

Correspondence: Dr C Capelli, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK. Tel: +44 1865 271261; Fax: +44 1865 310447; E-mail:

Received 27 May 2008; Revised 27 November 2008; Accepted 2 December 2008; Published online 21 January 2009.



To investigate the male genetic legacy of the Arab rule in southern Europe during medieval times, we focused on specific Northwest African haplogroups and identified evolutionary close STR-defined haplotypes in Iberia, Sicily and the Italian peninsula. Our results point to a higher recent Northwest African contribution in Iberia and Sicily in agreement with historical data. southern Italian regions known to have experienced long-term Arab presence also show an enrichment of Northwest African types. The forensic and genomic implications of these findings are discussed.


Y chromosome, North Africa medieval legacy, southern Europe