Article

European Journal of Human Genetics (2017) 25, 637–645; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2017.18; published online 8 March 2017

Genetics of the peloponnesean populations and the theory of extinction of the medieval peloponnesean Greeks
EJHGOpen

George Stamatoyannopoulos1, Aritra Bose2, Athanasios Teodosiadis3, Fotis Tsetsos2, Anna Plantinga4, Nikoletta Psatha5, Nikos Zogas6, Evangelia Yannaki6, Pierre Zalloua7, Kenneth K Kidd8, Brian L Browning4,9, John Stamatoyannopoulos3,10, Peristera Paschou11 and Petros Drineas2

  1. 1Division of Medical Genetics, Departments of Medicine and Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  2. 2Department of Computer Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
  3. 3Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Seattle, WA, USA
  4. 4Department of Biostatistics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  5. 5Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  6. 6Department of Hematology, George Papanicolaou Hospital, Thessaloniki, Greece
  7. 7Graduate Studies and Research Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon
  8. 8Department of Genetics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA
  9. 9Division of Medical Genetics, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  10. 10Departments of Medicine and Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  11. 11Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Democritus University of Thrace, Alexandroupolis, Greece

Correspondence: Professor G Stamatoyannopoulos, Division of Medical Genetics, Departments of Medicine and Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Box 357720, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. Tel: +206 543 3526; Fax: +206 221 5112; E-mail: gstam@uw.edu

Received 13 September 2016; Revised 14 December 2016; Accepted 22 January 2017
Advance online publication 8 March 2017

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Abstract

Peloponnese has been one of the cradles of the Classical European civilization and an important contributor to the ancient European history. It has also been the subject of a controversy about the ancestry of its population. In a theory hotly debated by scholars for over 170 years, the German historian Jacob Philipp Fallmerayer proposed that the medieval Peloponneseans were totally extinguished by Slavic and Avar invaders and replaced by Slavic settlers during the 6th century CE. Here we use 2.5 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms to investigate the genetic structure of Peloponnesean populations in a sample of 241 individuals originating from all districts of the peninsula and to examine predictions of the theory of replacement of the medieval Peloponneseans by Slavs. We find considerable heterogeneity of Peloponnesean populations exemplified by genetically distinct subpopulations and by gene flow gradients within Peloponnese. By principal component analysis (PCA) and ADMIXTURE analysis the Peloponneseans are clearly distinguishable from the populations of the Slavic homeland and are very similar to Sicilians and Italians. Using a novel method of quantitative analysis of ADMIXTURE output we find that the Slavic ancestry of Peloponnesean subpopulations ranges from 0.2 to 14.4%. Subpopulations considered by Fallmerayer to be Slavic tribes or to have Near Eastern origin, have no significant ancestry of either. This study rejects the theory of extinction of medieval Peloponneseans and illustrates how genetics can clarify important aspects of the history of a human population.

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